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Christian Governor of Jakarta Given Jail Sentence for "Blasphemy"

05/09/2017 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) - International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as "Ahok," has been convicted of blasphemy against the Quran and sentenced to two years in jail.

The sentence was harsher than expected since even the prosecution recommended only a "suspended" jail sentence. The sentencing comes after one of Indonesia's most divisive elections ever. The sentence is largely based on an edited video that made Ahok's statements about the Quran to a group of fishermen seem harsher than they actually were. Ahok was explaining to listeners that some people were trying to use the Quran to convince Muslim voters that they could not vote for him. Ahok says that he is going to appeal the sentence.

Ahok is ethnically Chinese and a Christian who was raised by Indonesian Muslim parents. He was the first Christian Chinese governor of Jakarta. He enjoyed widespread popularity for his aggressive reforms and was favored to win reelection by a strong majority. Many hoped that Ahok's rise represented a new wave of secularism and tolerance among religions. Hardline Muslim organizations with strong political ties seized upon his statements about the Quran and demanded that he be tried for blasphemy and imprisoned. Protests of tens and hundreds of thousands rocked Jakarta during the campaign, demanding Ahok's imprisonment. Some mosques taught Muslims in Jakarta that they could not vote for a non-Muslim and even denied burial rites for Muslims who supported Ahok.

Ahok managed to squeeze out a small majority in the first round of elections in February, but lost in the run-off election in April. Many attribute his loss to rising sectarianism in Indonesia.  

Of course, not all Muslims were against Ahok. An activist from Indonesia's largest Muslim organization told Asia News, "For most people and activists, Ahok's trial has been 'fabricated' to obtain a prison sentence... We should all be equal to the Law, but this case does not prove it. The law was 'molded' by social pressures. This is a dangerous phenomenon."