Ahok supporters come out in force to protest jailing for blasphemy
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Ahok supporters come out in force to protest jailing for blasphemy

MORE than 1,000 supporters of Jakarta’s outgoing governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama rallied outside the prison in which he was being kept on Tuesday night, after he was convicted of two years’ imprisonment for blasphemy against Islam.

His supporters – known as “Ahokkers” – turned out in force at the Cipinang detention centre in East Jakarta on Tuesday afternoon and stayed into the night to demand his release.

Activist Tunggal Pawestri declared that, “Tonight we’re in front of the Cipinang prison. We lit candles in the hope that our friends from minority groups don’t feel alone. We are here and speaking out.”

The symbolism is potent: iconic Indonesian novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer was held in Cipinang during the 1960s for criticising President Sukarno’s anti-Chinese policies.

SEE ALSO: Group demands repeal of Indonesia’s blasphemy laws after Ahok verdict

Thousands of flower boards had previously been sent to city hall in support of Ahok when he lost the April 19 gubernatorial runoff election after a sectarian campaign in which hardline Islamic groups staged mass demonstrations against the Christian governor.

Governor-elect Anies Baswedan, the Muslim who defeated Ahok and attracted criticism for courting the vote of religious ultraconservatives, stated that “we should respect the court’s decision, that’s all,” reported Tempo.

“I will focus on serving the citizens of Jakarta and to empower them,” he added.

SEE ALSO: Watchdog warns of ‘frightening’ future for Indonesia after Ahok case

Police have reportedly moved Ahok to a detention centre outside of Jakarta usually used to house terrorism suspects, stating that “other detainees [at Cipinang] were bothered by the noise.”

On Wednesday morning, however, the Ahokkers turned up again. This time, a large crowd converged on the city hall where Ahok’s deputy and now-governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat led them in singing the national anthem.

It was not only Ahok’s supporters shocked by Tuesday’s verdict, with Jakarta Stock Exchange dropping by 0.19 percent in response to the news.

Financial analyst Reza Priyambada told The Jakarta Globe that, “Ahok is already perceived as a clean and reformist politician. Markets see this court sentence as a setback in Indonesia’s legal system, which could affect foreign investors’ perception about the continuation of reform in the country.”

The United Nations human rights agency in Bangkok said it was “concerned” by the court’s ruling, calling on Indonesia to review its 1965 blasphemy law.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo – who is a political ally of Ahok and his former boss – said Indonesia’s government would not try to exert influence over the case.

“In a democratic country … the government cannot intervene in the legal process we have,” said Jokowi.

The UK Ambassador in Jakarta Moazzam Malik tweeted on Wednesday that he knows and admires Ahok, is praying for the governor’s wife and children, and that “leaders must step up to protect tolerance and harmony.”

Ahok’s legal team will appeal the court’s decision. Djarot, who was reluctantly sworn in as governor on Tuesday after the conviction, has said he will file a motion with Jakarta’s High Court to release Ahok until his appeal is heard.

SEE ALSO: Disbelief, anger and grief in response to Ahok conviction

Meanwhile, the hashtag #RIPHukum or “RIP to the law” went viral online and thousands of netizens have changed their profile pictures to a black square. Some even drew parallels with South African anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela.

“The funeral for Indonesia,” tweeted prominent filmmaker Joko Anwar.

Islamic legal scholar at Monash University Nadirsyah Hosen encouraged people to change their profile picture to an image of Ahok in a show of support.

“Someday, when I have kids, I’ll never be able to tell them “study hard so you can become president.” Do you understand why?” wrote one netizen from a minority ethnic background.