Indonesia – Former Christian governor of Jakarta condemned for blasphemy The sentence is hasher than the demands of the public prosecutors. The case divided the nation and gave force to radical Islamic groups.

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Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as “Ahok“, a Christian of Chinese ethnicity, former governor of Jakarta was found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy by a court in Jakarta for suggesting that some people have abused a Koranic verse to block his re-election.

In today’s verdict, May 9, the Court imposed a tougher punishment than the one required by the prosecutor (who had asked for two years on probation), while Ahok’s lawyers have announced they will appeal.

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 college of judges in a district court in North Jakarta declared Ahok guilty of blasphemy for improperly quoting a verse of the Koran. Ahok had been charged with blasphemy under Article 156 of the Penal Code. The Public Ministry, however, at the end of the proceedings, noting the weakness of the evidence and considering several extenuating circumstances, had suggested a more lenient sentence, which the Court ignored.

Today Ahok’s supporters express strong disappointment in Jakarta, while some Muslim groups have taken to the streets in the capital to celebrate after the ruling.

“It is a very sad story. Radical Islamic groups have influenced this verdict and also the whole issue, including the recent electoral campaign. We can only say it is not over: the defense will appeal, while we Christians always have faith in God’s justice, who is the Lord of history”, says to Agenzia Fides Fr. Agustinus Ulahayanan, Secretary of the Commission for Interreligious Dialogue in the Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia.

The priest reports: “We can learn a lesson from this story. The positive part is to see that despite the disappointment of Christians and many sectors of society, the reactions are peaceful: Indonesian Christians believe in the common good and have a deep respect for the Pancasila, the five principles at the basis of the Democratic Indonesia“. The negative aspect, however, is this: “Today we note the weakness of the judicial system”, stresses Fr. Agustinus Ulahayanan – and the impact radical groups have gained. There has been a striking instrumentalization of the Islamic faith for political purposes in recent months and this is a phenomenon that may also affect the upcoming national elections. It will be necessary to monitor and act with wisdom“.

A few days ago, thousands of red and white balloons were delivered to Ahok by his supporters, Christians and Muslims, and over 5,000 crowns of flowers were sent to the City Hall of Jakarta, the headquarters of the governor’s office, as a greeting to Ahok, in a sign of affection and solidarity. The governor infact lost the run-off of the 19 April elections and was preparing to leave the post to the new governor-elect, the Muslim Anies Baswedan, who will be in office in October. Now Ahok has been transferred to a prison in Jakarta.

Source: Agenzia Fides

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