Jakarta’s Christian ex-governor challenges blasphemy conviction
Jakarta’s former governor, a Christian convicted of insulting Islam, sought a judicial review of his case on Monday, as several hundred of his supporters and hardline Islamist protesters gathered outside a court in the Indonesian capital.
The ethnic Chinese Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, nicknamed “Ahok”, was sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy in 2017, provoking accusations of political motivation after Muslims rallied in their hundreds of thousands demanding his imprisonment.
Purnama’s request for a judicial review will be passed on to the Supreme Court, a judge at a lower court hearing said.
“We have completed the examination and the dossiers will be sent to the Supreme Court,” said Judge Mulyadi, one of a panel of judges at the North Jakarta court.
While on a work trip in 2016, Purnama said political rivals were deceiving people by using a verse in the Koran to say Muslims should not be led by a non-Muslim.
An incorrectly subtitled video of his comments later went viral, helping spark huge demonstrations that ultimately led to him being put on trial while campaigning in city elections.
Purnama lost his bid for re-election to a Muslim rival, Anies Baswedan, in an April run-off last year.
Purnama’s lawyer, Josefina Syukur, said the case was being challenged because they believed judges made errors and also to allow the court to consider the subsequent conviction of a lecturer for doctoring the video of Purnama.
Another lawyer, Fify Lety Indra, who is also Purnama’s sister, said her brother had dropped plans to appeal immediately after his detention, because “he was not willing to risk that his supporters and those who hate him might clash”.
Purnama is a popular figure in Jakarta, on account of his track record for clean and efficient governance. But his conviction could prevent him from holding some public posts under Indonesian law, because the offence carried a maximum penalty of five years.
Asked whether Purnama intended to re-enter politics, Indra said: “We just pray … I do not know.”
Some Muslims feel Purnama should stay in jail.
“I am protesting here to defend Islam,” said Zidan, 18, a member of the hardline Islamic Defenders’ Front, urging the rejection of Purnama’s request for a review.