Jakarta governor given 2-year prison sentence for blasphemy

Muslim protesters shout slogans during a protest against Jakarta’s Christian Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama in Jakarta Indonesia Friday

The head judge Santiarto also denied that the case had political aspects and said the trial was purely criminal.

In announcing its decision, the five-judge panel said Gov. Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama was "convincingly proven guilty of blasphemy" and ordered his arrest.

Thousands of police have been deployed in the capital in case clashes break out between Ahok supporters and opponents who have demanded he be sacked and jailed.

Ahok was heard criticising his political detractors for using a Koranic verse - Al Maidah 51 - to "fool" people into not voting for a non-Muslim.

The sentence was harsher than that requested by prosecutors, which was a one-year suspended sentence.

The ruling significantly challenges the country's reputation as moderate in the Islamic world, particularly because prosecutors recommended a punishment of two years' probation, not imprisonment.

As an ethnic Chinese Indonesian and Christian he is a double minority, and was Jakarta's first non-Muslim governor for 50 years.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as "Ahok", made an off-the-cuff comment about a verse in the Koran being used against him.

The hearing on Tuesday capped a long-drawn trial against Basuki, who was recently defeated by his rival Anies Baswedan at the April 19 gubernatorial election.

The verdict was met with shock among his supporters outside the court and some wept openly.

Photos quickly appeared online of Ahok, who still commands enormous popularity in Jakarta, the capital, being warmly greeted by prison staff. Ahok said he would appeal, but it was unclear if he would be released once that process is underway.

Bonar Tigor Naipospos from Indonesia's pro-democracy Setara Institute said the verdict was a "setback for religious freedom, democracy and rule of law in Indonesia".

It sparked massive anti-Ahok protests in the city, boosting hard-line Islamic groups that said it would be a sin for Muslims to vote for a non-Muslim.

Mr Purnama became governor after his predecessor, Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, was elected president in 2014.

Analysts claim that radical Islamist groups that rallied against Ahok significantly contributed to the outcome of the decision.

The government said on Monday it would take legal steps to disband Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), a group that seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate, because its activities were creating social tensions and threatening security. Although Indonesia officially recognizes six religions - Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism - there are concerns of rising influence of hardline Islamist groups.

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