February 26, 2018 / 10:17 AM / 7 months ago

Jakarta's Christian ex-governor challenges blasphemy conviction

JAKARTA (Reuters) - 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.

Supporters of former Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, or Ahok, hold a placard and shout slogans during a protest in front of North Jakarta District Court in Jakarta, Indonesia February 26, 2018. Placard says: "Freedom for Ahok". REUTERS/Beawiharta

The ethnic Chinese Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as “Ahok”, was jailed for two years for blasphemy in 2017, provoking international condemnation amid concerns of political motivation after Islamist-led rallies demanded 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.

A supporter of former Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama or Ahok holds a placard during a protest in front of North Jakarta District Court in Jakarta, Indonesia February 26, 2018. REUTERS/Beawiharta

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 Islamist-led demonstrations that ultimately led to his being brought to trial while he campaigned in city elections.

Purnama lost his bid for re-election to a Muslim rival, Anies Baswedan, in an April run-off last year, following the most divisive and religiously charged election in years.

Purnama’s lawyer, Josefina Syukur, said the case was being challenged because they believed judges had 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.”

Fifi Lety Indra (C), lawyer of former Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama walks before a trial at the North Jakarta District Court in Jakarta, Indonesia February 26, 2018. REUTERS/Beawiharta

Purnama remains a popular figure among many 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 if Purnama intended to re-enter politics, Indra said: “We just pray...I do not know.”

Some Muslim opponents felt Purnama should remain 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 review. 

Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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