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Jakarta's Minority Christian Governor Convicted Of Blasphemy


The governor of the capital city of Indonesia has been sentenced to prison. He's a distinctive figure in a majority Muslim nation, the first Christian and the first ethnic Chinese in his job. Now, he's been told to serve two years for blasphemy against Islam. Here's NPR's Anthony Kuhn.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Foreign language spoken).

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: For months, protesters for and against Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama have rallied outside the courthouse where he stood trial for blasphemy. The charges against Ahok, as he's nicknamed, refer to comments he made last September. He told a group of fishermen that politicians who tell them that the Koran forbids voting for non-Muslims are lying to them.

Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono says such politicians seem to have won. Ahok lost his re-election bid to a Muslim candidate last month. Harsono says many Muslim voters saw it like this...

ANDREAS HARSONO: We are satisfied with him, but we cannot vote for him because if we vote for him, we might end up in hell.

KUHN: Ahok was not expected to do jail time. Last month, prosecutors asked the court to give him a suspended sentence. Blasphemy carries a maximum five-year jail term in Indonesia. I spoke to Ahok on the campaign trail in January, and he told me he had no regrets about his destiny.

BASUKI TJAHAJA PURNAMA: I am happy history chose me for this position. You couldn't buy it.

KUHN: Since its founding, Indonesia has taken its rich diversity as a source of strength and pride. But since the end of military rule in 1998, acts of intolerance towards ethnic and religious minorities have flared up. Harsono says Ahok's sentence spells trouble for those minorities and for Ahok's former patron, Indonesia's president, Joko Widodo. Jokowi, as he's popularly known, will be up for re-election in 2019.

HARSONO: Jokowi is very likely accused of being an ally of a blasphemer.

KUHN: Ahok was immediately taken into custody after the hearing. He says he plans to appeal his sentence. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.
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