Pacific News Minute: Christian Governor of Jakarta Sentenced to Two Years in Prison for Blasphemy

May 10, 2017

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama aka "Ahok"
Credit Wikimedia Commons

In April, the incumbent Governor of Jakarta lost his bid for election in a campaign dominated by allegations that he had committed blasphemy against the Koran. Yesterday, he was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison. Details, from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.


The scene of the crime was a campaign rally last September. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, commonly known by his nickname Ahok, told a group of fishermen that his opponents were tricking the voters. He said they misrepresented a passage in the Koran, as prohibiting Muslims from voting for candidates of other faiths. An edited version of the speech went viral and hundreds of thousands turned out at rallies demanding Ahok’s head.


Purnama is what’s known in Indonesia as a double minority – both ethnic Chinese and Christian. He insisted that he was being pilloried by political opponents with a wider agenda. The power and influence of hardline Islamists has grown in a secular democracy once celebrated for religious tolerance. Their goals include imposition of Sharia law, and, come 2019, maybe the presidency. Incumbent Joko Widodo is a political ally of Ahok and his predecessor as Governor of Jakarta.


Andreas Harsono of Human Rights watch told the Guardian: “(Ahok) is the governor of Indonesia’s largest city, an ally of the president. If he can be sent to jail, what could happen to others?”


The two year sentence was particularly surprising, because the prosecution had reduced charges and asked for probation.


One of the judges, Abdul Rosyad, explained “The defendant did not feel guilt,” he said, “the defendants act has caused anxiety and hurt Muslims.”