Jakarta’s outgoing governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, was found guilty of blasphemy on Tuesday and sentenced to two years in jail following comments he made regarding the Koran, the central religious text of Islam. The maximum sentence for blasphemy in Indonesia is five years in prison. While staunch Islamist groups pushed for Purnama to receive the full sentence, prosecutors asked for a conditional sentence of two years’ probation. Purnama’s lawyer says the governor plans to appeal the court’s ruling.
While on a work trip late last year, Purnama claimed that Jakarta’s Islamic leaders were misrepresenting a principle in the Koran for political gains. The verse in question, which comes from the fifth chapter of the Koran, suggests that Muslims should not have non-Muslim leaders. Purnama implied that his opponents were using the verse to discriminate against Christian candidates like himself. He later apologized for the comments, but did not admit to any wrongdoing.
In a statement to the court, head judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto described Purnama’s offense: “As part of a religious society, the defendant should be careful to not use words with negative connotations regarding the symbols of religions, including the religion of the defendant himself,” he said. Another judge, Abdul Rosyad, argued that Purnama’s comments had not only “caused anxiety,” but also “hurt Muslims.”