Indonesia - Governor Convicted of Blasphemy Freed From Prison


Photo Credits:Indonesia Expat

With over 261 million people, Indonesia is the world's 4th most populous country as well as the most populous Muslim-majority country.

The Indonesian politician who was jailed in May 2017 after a court found him guilty of blasphemy for a comment he made while campaigning for re-election, has been released from prison after serving out his two-year sentence. Jakarta’s former governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (best known as “Ahok”) tried to avoid waiting supporters and media on January 24, 2019 by leaving a paramilitary police prison outside the capital early that morning with members of his family, said his spokesman Sakti Budiono.

In 2016, Purnama made lighthearted campaign-trail comments that voters shouldn’t heed his detractors who said the Quran prohibits Muslims from being led by Christians. Hard-liners seized on the remarks as blasphemy, triggering protests that brought hundreds of thousands of white-robed Muslims to the center of Jakarta.

As the Guardian reports, the jailing of the former governor – an anomaly in Indonesian politics as a minority Christian and Chinese – was widely condemned by rights groups, with critics saying the sentence was a blow to religious tolerance and free speech; while others suggested the Indonesian judiciary had succumbed to mob rule.

Ahok – who in a recent letter from prison asked his supporters to refer to him by his initials “BTP” rather than his Chinese nickname – was met outside the prison by supporters clad in red, blue and white shirts, chanting “BTP, BTP, BTP”.

It is not clear if Ahok will return to politics after prison, but Islamic Defenders Front member Novel Bakmumin, who filed a police complaint that led to Purnama being investigated for blasphemy, said the former governor should stay out of politics.

“I hope Ahok will not repeat a mistake that can cause unrest among Muslims, not only in Indonesia but in the world, because Islam is not his realm to be critical of, he should take care of his own religion,” he said.

“If we could go back in time and someone asked which would you choose [Going to prison or winning the election] I would say I choose to be imprisoned at Mako to study for two years, so that I could maintain self-discipline for the rest of my life,” Ahok wrote in a recent letter posted on his official Instagram account, “If I were re-elected, I would have become more arrogant, rough, and I would have hurt people.”

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