05/09/2017, 09.32
INDONESIA

Ahok condemned to two years for blasphemy. Shock and consternation in Indonesia

by Mathias Hariyadi

The Jakarta governor has been brought to Cipinang Prison. The sentence is hasher than the demands of the public prosecutors. The case divided the nation and gave force to radical Islamic groups. The contrast between radical movements and moderate groups underscored. The political situation is not beneficial to President Joko Widodo.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The North Jakarta district court has declared outgoing governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama guilty of blasphemy for suggesting that some people have abused a Koranic verse to block his re-election. The college of judges led by Dwiarso Budi Santiarso sentenced Ahok to two years in prison for this offense. The Christian governor, whose mandate expires in October, has announced that he will appeal the verdict.

Originally Ahok was accused of blasphemy in accordance with Article 156a of the Criminal Code and defamation under Article 156. Prosecutors, however, had dropped the blasphemy charge in their request for a judgment, saying there was no evidence that the governor committed blasphemy. They therefore requested that Ahok be sentenced to two years with the conditional release and one year of imprisonment if he recommitted the offense.

The allegation of blasphemy against Ahok has divided the nation and has given force to radical Islamic groups. It was in fact instrumental in the defeat of the outgoing governor in the government elections of 19 April. In a speech to the Thousand Islands Regiment last September, Ahok had stated that some people were "deceived" by those who use the Al-Maidah 51 for political purposes. Some religious believe that the Koranic verse prohibited Muslims from electing a non-Muslim leader.

The verdict has stirred controversy throughout the country. Most people express feelings of anxiety and comment that the ruling is unjust, given the undue pressure exerted on the five district court judges by Ahok's political opponents. What is striking is that the sentence is far harsher than the demands of prosecutors.

During the final hearing today, Ahok explained that the court has politically distorted the nature of his meeting with the local people in Thousand Islands in September 2016. The judge said that instead of discussing fisheries issues among fishermen Local, Ahok has deliberately "diverted" the problem by making offensive comments that were not "related" to his intention to meet locals.

With Ahok in jail, the Jakarta governorate will be handed over to his deputy Djarot Saiful Hidayat, a nationalist figure of the Indonesian Democratic Party (Pdip) until October 2017. From then on, Anies Baswedan's mandate will begin. In the last elections he defeated the out-going governor thanks to the support of Islamic fundamentalist movements.

While his lawyers try to file a lawsuit at the District State Court for a lighter sentence, Ahok is now being held in Cipinang, the largest detention facility in East Jakarta.

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