Indonesia president calls for respect of governor blasphemy verdict

Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama has been found guilty of Blasphemy and sentenced to 2 years in prison, a clear indication that Jakarta is leading Indonesia down the dark road to Islamic fundamentalism.

"We are handing him a prison term of two years and ordering the defendant to be detained", presiding judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto said in reading the outcome.

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.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama attends court to hear the verdict against him.

Purnama told the court he would appeal the ruling.The governor was taken to an East Jakarta prison after the verdict and his lawyer Tommy Sihotang said he would remain there despite his appeal process unless a higher court suspended it.

Outside the court, Syamsu Hilal, a member of a hardline Muslim group who reported Ahok to police previous year, said justice had been upheld. Nevertheless, the trial drew hundreds of thousands to anti-Ahok protests across Jakarta, with hardline Muslim groups demanding that he resign.

This stems from a video released late past year that showed him explaining on the campaign trail that a Quran verse barring Muslims from voting for him was being misquoted. Ahok said he will appeal the decision. Following the verdict, the five-judge panel ordered the immediate arrest of the governor.

"I'm here because I want to defend my religion - Ahok has insulted it, he must be jailed", Ari, a 35-year-old who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP.

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Around 15,000 police personnel have been deployed outside the court premises where Purnama's sentencing was pronounced to prevent an outbreak of violence.

Blasphemy is a criminal offense in Indonesia and punishable by up to five years in prison. "This is a sad day for equality among citizens in Indonesia".

"What is most important is that we all believe in the legal mechanism to solve every problem and that is indeed how a democratic country resolves differences of views", he said.

Ahok was widely praised for his work in tackling Jakarta's snarled traffic and chronic urban flooding, since replacing his predecessor, now-President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in 2014.

Indonesia's blasphemy controversy emerged in September, when an incorrectly-subtitled video of the governor criticizing those who claim that the Qur'an prohibits Muslims from having a non-Muslim leader surfaced online.

They are to be succeeded by the victors of the recently concluded Jakarta gubernatorial election, Governor-elect Anies Baswedan and Vice Governor-elect Sandiaga Uno, in October.

The Indonesian government has been heavily criticized for not doing enough to protect religious minorities.

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