THE two-year prison sentence handed down to Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy has been met with strongly mixed responses by those protesting outside the North Jakarta district court, Indonesian netizens and international observers.
Jakarta’s Christian governor was found guilty of blasphemy against Islam and sentenced to jail on Tuesday after a trial that was seen as a test of religious tolerance in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.
Ahok’s fans turned out in force to support him on the final day in court and were upbeat, with prosecutors previously calling for a relatively light sentence of two years’ probation with jail time were he to reoffend.
Dangdut aan en gaan pic.twitter.com/GRfbn1e6bT
— Eva Oude Elferink (@Eoudeelferink) May 9, 2017
Shortly after the court’s verdict, however, the mood changed drastically.
Tears for Ahok….heartbeaking scenes after the governor was jailed pic.twitter.com/9yyhVoH5OK
— Step Vaessen (@stepvaessen) May 9, 2017
Some hardliners outside the courtroom responded with anger as they had hoped Ahok would be given the maximum sentence of five years under Indonesia’s blasphemy laws.
Some Protestors not happy with 2 year sentence for Ahok. Wanted 5 pic.twitter.com/cuYdlD3XGq
— Samantha Hawley (@samanthahawley) May 9, 2017
Jakarta’s deputy governor and Ahok’s running mate in the April 19 election Djarot Saiful Hidayat said that the court’s sentence “should have been lighter,” reported Tiga Pilar News.
Fadli Zon, an ally of Anies Baswedan who defeated Ahok in the April 19 election, called the panel of judges who convicted Ahok “great, independent law enforcement heroes.”
The deputy House Speaker in Indonesian Parliament tweeted that: “The decision of the judges is in accordance with legal facts and represents the community’s sense of fairness.”
“Today is one of the worst days in this republic’s life,” wrote the director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Democracy at Paramadina University in Jakarta, Ihsan Ali-Fauzi in a Facebook post.
“People will get the government they deserve,” added Ihsan, “In ten years to come, today will be remembered as a black spot in the history of our democracy. May our children and grandchildren really learn from it.”
Tobias Basuki, a researcher at the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, tweeted that the verdict was a “complete farce.”
Politicization of religion had taken another low never thought possible. The blasphemy sentencing against Ahok is a complete farce
— Tobias Basuki (@TobiasBasuki) May 9, 2017
Prominent Egyptian Muslim feminist Mona Eltahawy promptly responded to the news by tweeting “blasphemy laws must be abolished everywhere.”
— Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) May 9, 2017
The sentence was “far worse” than expected and based upon “an illiberal law,” tweeted Aaron Connelly a Southeast Asia Research Fellow from the Lowy Institute.
Swathes of Indonesian netizens took to Twitter to express their astonishment, disappointment and anger at the sentencing.
— Akang Andy Achmad N (@heybred) May 9, 2017
Ahok is honestly the first and only politician/ ruler/ leader/ GOVERNOR I've shed tears for. I lost faith in justice in Indonesian court.
— im melissa 🌐 (@bts__melissa) May 9, 2017
— enysoe (@enysoe) May 9, 2017
You may hate Ahok, his policies or his behaviour, but he doesn't deserve jail.
— Akif Aizwaf (@nrg07) May 9, 2017
Ahok is found guilty. For being born a Chinese, in Indonesia.
In Indonesia we are all guilty for our race and what we choose to believe.
— Teddy Setiawan Kho (@ted_kho) May 9, 2017
One netizen was more optimistic, saying “I’m ready for the flood of those flower boards again. Cool.”
Ahok will be jailed immediately and has been banned from public office for life. He has said that he will appeal the court’s decision.