Decision to jail Ahok politically driven: Lawyer

Decision to jail Ahok politically driven: Lawyer

Jakarta's Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (centre), popularly known as Ahok, was jailed for two years on Tuesday (May 9) after being found guilty of committing blasphemy, capping a saga seen as a test of religious tolerance in the Muslim-majority nation. (Photo: AFP/Bay Ismoyo)

SINGAPORE: The decision to sentence Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama or "Ahok" to two years' jail for blasphemy was politically driven, his defence lawyer I Wayan Sidarta said on Tuesday (May 9). 

"We respect the decision but we can't accept it. We understand the pressure surrounding this case, but we're disappointed.

"We will file an appeal to challenge the decision," The Jakarta Post cited Wayan as saying after the head judge of a Jakarta court found the Christian governor to "have legitimately and convincingly conducted a criminal act of blasphemy" against Islam.  

According to the report, Wayan also questioned the judges' decision to detain Purnama as he had been cooperative during the hearing. "Why should Ahok be detained? Ahok will still be governor, so he won't escape." 

Purnama had on a work trip last year said political rivals were deceiving people by using a verse in the Quran 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 resulted in him being brought to trial. 

Purnama denied wrongdoing, but apologised for the comments made to residents in an outlying Jakarta district. 

On Twitter, there was an outpouring of support for Ahok with the hashtag #RIPJustice, with many expressing concern on the implications for religious tolerance in Indonesia.

President Joko Widodo, a friend and political ally of Purnama, said Indonesians should respect the verdict and legal process, including his move to file an appeal. "The government cannot interfere with the legal process," he said on the sidelines of his visit to Jayapura, Papua, according to The Jakarta Post.

In April, Purnama lost his bid for re-election to a Muslim rival, Anies Baswedan. Purnama's deputy is expected to take over until Baswedan takes office in October.