Jakarta governor found guilty of blasphemy

Jakarta's first non-Muslim governor and Chinese-ethnic minority, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama also known as Ahok (centre, in blue and white), arrives in court on May 9.

An Indonesian court on Tuesday sentenced Jakarta's Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama to two years in prison for blasphemy over remarks he made about the Qu'ran.

The Christian governor of Jakarta was sentenced on Tuesday to two years in jail for insulting Islam.

The sentence went against the recommendation of prosecutors, who asked Ahok be given a suspended jail term. The maximum sentence for hate speech is four years in prison while blasphemy charges carry a a five-year sentence.

Hardliners called for the maximum penalty - five years, but he was given a reduced sentence. Purnama's opponents believed that was too light.

Nearly five months after the controversial case began, a panel of five judges from North Jakarta District Court handed down the decision on Tuesday, leaving his supporters stunned.

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Ahok: Indonesia's religious tolerance on trial?

TRT World's Arabella Munro reports.

The government has been criticized for not doing enough to protect religious minorities but Widodo had urged restraint over the trial and called for all sides to respect the legal process.

The minority Christian governor is now on trial on accusation of blasphemy following his remark about a passage in the Quran that could be interpreted as prohibiting Muslims from accepting non-Muslims as leaders.

"Both groups will have the opportunity to demonstrate, but we are taking steps to prevent clashes", said Setyo Wasisto, the national police spokesman.

Mr Purnama lost his bid for re-election in an April run-off election to a Muslim rival, Anies Baswedan. He is due to hand over to Baswedan in October.

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On Nov. 2016, at least 200,000 Islamic protesters took to the streets of Jakarta and demanded Purnama be thrown in jail for blasphemy.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama attends court to hear the verdict against him.

Outside the court supporters of Governor Ahok broke down in tears when they heard the verdict.

Purnama had on a work trip past 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.

Rights groups fear that they are amidst a surge of religious intolerance in a country where most Muslims practice a moderate form of Islam and is home to sizeable communities of Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, and people who adhere to local beliefs such as Animism.

The election was seen as the most divisive and religiously charged poll in recent years by far, and some commentators said it was just the latest example of the "Islamification" of Indonesian politics.

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