The governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known
as ‘Ahok’, has been found guilty of blasphemy and sentenced to two years in
prison. He will appeal the sentence.
Benedict Rogers, East Asia Team Leader at Christian
Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said: "This verdict and the sentence imposed represent
an outrageous miscarriage of justice. It also represents a further, and severe,
erosion of Indonesia's values of religious pluralism as set out in the
Pancasila, the state ideology.”
“Indonesia's ability to hold itself up as an example
of a moderate, tolerant, Muslim-majority democracy is further threatened and is
now very questionable. We urge the courts to overturn this verdict on appeal
and acquit Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.”
As a Chinese Christian, Ahok is Indonesia’s most prominent
ethnic minority politician and was the first non-Muslim governor of Jakarta for
over 50 years. His campaign for re-election was overshadowed by the blasphemy
allegation against him and he lost the vote last month.
On 27 September 2016, Ahok reportedly quoted a Qur’anic
verse on the campaign trail while addressing concerns that his political
opponents may use the verse to discourage people from voting for him as a
non-Muslim. He was then falsely accused of criticising the verse itself. The
court case against the governor was filed by several conservative Islamic
groups after his statement went viral via a doctored YouTube video.
On 13 November 2016, Ahok was formally charged with
blasphemy and his trial began on 13 December 2016. An estimated 500,000 Muslims
turned up to a number of rallies in November and December 2016 to protest
against his supposed blasphemy.
Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority
country, yet it rejected theocracy at its foundation and adopted a state
philosophy known as ‘Pancasila’, giving equal recognition to the major
religions. CSW believes that the case against Ahok is part of a broader attempt
to undermine the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in the country.
On 10 January, the Indonesian National Commission for
Human Rights (Komnas HAM) published a report
detailing a steady increase in FoRB violations in recent years. CSW’s 2014
Pluralism in Peril, also found that rising religious intolerance poses
a threat to Indonesia’s strong tradition of religious pluralism.
Benedict Rogers added: “Indonesia's blasphemy laws
have been abused for too long, so we call on President Joko Widodo to review
the blasphemy laws and amend or repeal them to prevent future injustices."