Supporters of jailed Christian governor Ahok rally in Indonesia | News | DW | 10.05.2017
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Supporters of jailed Christian governor Ahok rally in Indonesia

Thousands of protesters gathered in front of a Jakarta prison in support of the former Christian governor imprisoned for two years for blasphemy against Islam. The politician plans to appeal the verdict.

Indonesian authorities moved Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, best known under his nickname of Ahok, to a police detention center early on Wednesday after supporters descended on the prison.

Protesters also staged a smaller rally in front of Jakarta's city hall. The crowd, mostly wearing the red and white of the Indonesian flag, demanded Ahok's release.

Acting governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat urged the crowd to fight "for justice."

"Last night I met with Ahok and he wants me to convey this message: 'We have to respect whatever the judges have decided, but the fight is not over yet'," he told them.

'Injustice' of law against blasphemy

Ahok was the first ever ethnic Chinese Christian governor of Jakarta. He came under fire for allegedly insulting the Quran while campaigning for reelection in September. During an official function, he said that his opponents "lied" to the voters by telling them that the Muslim holy book said Muslims should not choose non-Muslims as leaders. An edited version of his statement then went online, sparking massive riots in the capital and cutting his lead in the polls. The governor later clarified that he had criticized his opponents, not the verse itself.

Nevertheless, he lost out to a Muslim rival and found himself on trial for blasphemy.  Despite prosecutors asking for a one-year jail term, suspended for two years, the five-judge panel sentenced Ahok to two years in prison.

The verdict shocked Muslim-majority, but traditionally tolerant Indonesia where Christians make up less than nine percent of the population.

Indonesien Jakarta Protest vor Cipinang Gefängnis (Reuters/D. Whiteside)

Judges said Ahok 'didn't feel guilt'

Both the UN and the EU expressed concern. Human rights group Amnesty International said that the move would "tarnish Indonesia's reputation."

"This verdict demonstrates the inherent injustice of Indonesia's blasphemy law, which should be repealed immediately," said Champa Patel, Amnesty International's director for South-east Asia and the Pacific. 

Ahok said that he would appeal the court's decision.

dj/rt (dpa, AFP)