South East Asia

Jakarta’s Christian governor in prison, world rallies against blasphemy law

Ahok, former governor of Jarkarta

The popular former Christian governor of Jakarta, “Ahok” Tjahaha Purnama, languishes in prison on a blasphemy charge after a panel of judges found him guilty.

The Christian politician, who was known for prizing tolerance and his opposition to corruption, is believed to be preparing to appeal against his two-year sentence.

He was found guilty of blasphemy in spite of the fact that prosecutors had earlier dropped the charge due to lack of evidence.

The conviction  has outraged international opinion and undermined Indonesia’s reputation for moderation.

When handing down the sentence, the lead judge told the court that Ahok had “convincingly conducted a criminal act of blasphemy”.

The Christian governor’s troubles began when he made a controversial speech calling for tolerance and referred to a verse from the Quran. His opponents reported him to the police for blasphemy.

Critics of the decision claim that the judges’ decision to sentence Ahok marks a troubling shift of policy. Statements from the United Nations, the European Union and human rights groups have all criticized the conviction, prompting Indonesia’s human rights minister, Yasonna Laoly, to instigate a review of the blasphemy law.

Editor’s note: In an earlier version of this news story we referred to a statement written by Ahok to his supporters. Our source has reported to us that this statement has not been verified. We apologise for this error.