JAKARTA: Outgoing Jakarta governor and President Joko Widodo’s ally was found guilty of blasphemy by a District Court on Tuesday (May 9) and sentenced to two years in jail. The hearing on Tuesday capped a long-drawn trial against Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who was recently defeated by his rival Anies Baswedan at the April 19 gubernatorial election. Mr Joko urged all Indonesians to respect the court’s verdict on Basuki, as well as the latter’s decision to appeal. “What is important is that we trust in the legal mechanism to resolve problems that we face. That is the way a democratic country handles different views in the public. The government cannot intervene in the legal process.” The court had ordered the sentence to be carried out immediately even though Basuki – better known by his Chinese nickname Ahok – had indicated his wish to appeal the court’s decision. He was taken to Cipinang prison in East Jakarta shortly after the hearing. The defence team noted that the punishment meted out by the court was heavier than the two-year probation state prosecutors had recommended earlier, and said they planned to appeal. The court case against Basuki involves a speech to constituents last September, when he was heard referring to a verse in the Quran while telling them that they should not be misled by opponents urging Muslims to reject a non-Muslim leader. Basuki is a Christian.
A key consideration of the case was whether the governor’s comments was blasphemous against Islam, said the five-member judging panel led by presiding judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto. During the reading of the verdict, the judges said the evidence proved that Basuki had deliberately committed blasphemy and hence was guilty of the charge. Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo said, as a result of the verdict, Basuki’s deputy Djarot Saiful Hidayat will be appointed acting governor until the end of their term in October. This will also be the time when governor-elect Anies and his running mate Sandiaga Uno will take over at City Hall. The capital was on edge just before the judges delivered the verdict inside an auditorium at the Ministry of Agriculture in South Jakarta, where the hearing was held. Outside, thousands of police officers stood guard, and deployed concertina wire barricades to prevent an outbreak of violence between Basuki supporters and hardline Muslim protesters, who had gathered near the ministry complex. An estimated 5,000 supporters of Basuki turned up to rally behind the Christian politician, even putting up a display on the road made up of red and white roses that said “#SAVEAHOK”. But there were also about 5,000 others at the same venue staging a protest to call for the courts to jail Basuki for insulting Islam.