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Indonesia: ousted Christian governor convicted on blasphemy charge

May 09, 2017

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (popularly known as “Ahok”), the outgoing Christian governor of Indonesia’s Jakarta province, has been convicted of blasphemy against Islam and faces a two-year prison sentence.

Ahok, a Protestant, angered some Muslims when, in a campaign appearance, he argued that Muslims were misusing the authority of the Qu’ran in suggesting that Muslims must reject the leadership of non-Muslims. His invocation of the Qu’ran enraged Islamic fundamentalists, and prompted massive public demonstrations against the governor. He was handily defeated in his bid for re-election as governor in April.

The criminal charge against Ahok, pressed by Islamic militants, had divided Indonesia: a nation that takes pride in its commitment to inter-religious harmony. The court’s sentence is likely to deepen the division. The judges actually went beyond the recommendations of prosecutors, who suggested that the most serious charge could be dropped and Ahok could be given a suspended sentence.

The AsiaNews service quoted Justina Rostiawait, president of the Indonesian Catholic Women’s Association, as saying: “The judges’ verdict has been massively influenced by the corrupt political situation in Indonesia.” She said that the outcome “is potentially dangerous for the development of justice and law in the country.”

Lilik Sugianto, a Muslim activist from East Java, agreed, remarking to AsiaNews: “How can Indonesia be defined as ‘a secular state based on the rule of law’ if Ahok, a Christian of Chinese origin, an incorruptible worker who does not accept compromises, is ‘guilty’ of blasphemy and politically condemned in such an unfair trial?”

Ahok has indicated that he will appeal the court’s decision.

 
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