May 9 (UPI) — The outgoing Chinese Christian governor of Jakarta was found guilty of blasphemy Tuesday and sentenced to two years in prison, an Indonesian court ruled.
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, was accused of insulting Islam by referring to a verse in the Quran during a campaign speech last year.
Ahok said candidates running against him were lying when they claimed the Quran says Muslims should not vote for non-Muslims to rule them.
His remarks sparked outrage in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country with 263 million people — about 85 percent of whom are followers of Islam. Protests in November and December both drew nearly 200,000 people.
Ahok said he was criticizing clerics’ interpretation of the verse, not the Quran. Judges said he did it deliberately and did not show remorse.
He was “found to have legitimately and convincingly conducted a criminal act of blasphemy, and because of that we have imposed two years of imprisonment,” head judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto told the court.
The sentence went against the recommendation of prosecutors, who asked Ahok be given a suspended jail term. Lawyers said he would appeal.
Ahok was appointed Jakarta’s governor in 2014 by Joko Widodo, his predecessor who was elected Indonesia’s president. Ahok’s political success was seen as a significant development in a city where anti-Chinese riots occurred in 1998.
Ahok was expected to win re-election at the start of his campaign last year. But the blasphemy trial overshadowed his campaign and he conceded defeat to Anies Baswedan in a run-off last month.