Jakarta’s outgoing governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, has withdrawn his appeal of a two-year jail sentence, his wife tearfully announced at a news conference on Tuesday. The governor, who is often referred to by his nickname, “Ahok,” was found guilty of blasphemy on May 9 following comments he made regarding the Koran, the central religious text of Islam. On a work trip late last year, Purnama claimed that Jakarta’s Islamic leaders were misrepresenting a principle in the Koran in an effort to discriminate against Christian candidates.
While the governor eventually apologized for the comments, they played a major role in foiling his bid for reelection. As the second Christian governor in Jakarta’s history, Purnama hoped to become the city’s first directly elected non-Muslim leader. Indonesia is the world’s largest majority-Muslim nation, with approximately 202.9 million Muslim residents. Purnama assumed his original post as governor by default after his predecessor, Joko Widodo, was elected president. While allied with Purnama, Widodo has called on all parties to respect the court’s sentencing.
On Tuesday, Tommy Sihotang, a defense lawyer for Purnama, said the governor withdrew his appeal due to mounting political tension in Indonesia. In the wake of Purnama’s sentencing, many of his supporters have held protests and candlelight vigils in cities throughout the country. Prior to the court’s verdict, Islamist groups called for the governor to be jailed or executed and held large opposition rallies, including one that turned violent.