Jakarta's Christian governor jailed for blasphemy against Islam

Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch described the verdict as "a huge setback" for Indonesia's record of tolerance and for minorities. Hard-line Islamic groups opposed to having a non-Muslim leader for the city capitalized on the trial to draw hundreds of thousands to anti-Ahok protests in Jakarta that shook the centrist government of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

The five-judge panel at the Jakarta court found Purnama guilty of blasphemy and jailed him for two years.

Shocked and angry supporters, some weeping openly, gathered outside the prison, vowing not to leave the area until he was released, while others vented their shock on social media.

On Nov. 2016, at least 200,000 Islamic protesters took to the streets of Jakarta and demanded Purnama be thrown in jail for blasphemy. Islamic groups who oppose him say they will push for a harsher sentence.

Supporters of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama display a poster that reads "Free Ahok" during a rally outside the court where his sentencing hearing is held in Jakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, May 9, 2017.

Home affairs minister Tjahjo Kumolo said Purnama's deputy would take over in the interim.

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Thousands of police have been deployed in the capital because of tension between Purnama's supporters and opponents.

Prosecutors last month recommended a two-year suspended prison sentence for Ahok.

Blasphemy carries a maximum jail term of five years in Indonesia but the sentence was a surprise as judges typically follow the recommendation of prosecutors in criminal cases.

Purnama has denied wrongdoing, though he apologised for comments he made past year criticising his opponents' use of the Koran in political campaigning.

An edited version of his speech went viral online, sparking outrage.

Purnama, also known by his Chinese name Ahok, was hauled into court previous year to face trial for remarks he made in September 2016 while campaigning for re-election.

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In April, Purnama lost his bid for re-election to a Muslim rival, Anies Baswedan.

It was expected Ahok would stay in office until October when he would hand over the capital to Mr Baswedan.

In Indonesia blasphemy cases always lead to prison sentences (we are not aware of a case in which the defendant was acquitted).

Analysts say the extremist groups that organised mass protests against Purnama had a decisive impact on the outcome of the election.

The ruling came among growing concern about the increasing influence of Islamist groups in the country.

The government has been criticised for not doing enough to protect religious minorities among Indonesia's 260 million population of whom nearly 90 percent profess adherence to Islam.

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