The conviction and imprisonment of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as “Ahok”, will tarnish Indonesia’s reputation for tolerance.
“This verdict demonstrates the inherent injustice of Indonesia’s blasphemy law, which should be repealed immediately,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
“Despite protests of his innocence and evidence that his words were manipulated for political purposes, he has been sentenced to two years in jail. The verdict will tarnish Indonesia’s reputation as a tolerant nation.”
Amnesty International calls the Indonesian authorities to repeal blasphemy laws, including Articles 156 and 156(a) of the Criminal Code that have been used to prosecute and imprison people may be imprisoned for “defamation” of religion for as long as five years simply because they have peacefully exercised their right to freedom of expression or to freedom of thought, conscience or religion, which are protected under international human rights law.
The prosecutor demanded the judges sentence Ahok for one year’s imprisonment during two years of probation and charged him for “insulting or making hostility” towards a certain group in public under Article 156 of the Criminal Code and dropped the blasphemy charges. However, the North Jakarta District Court convicted Ahok of blasphemy under Article 156(a) of the Criminal Code and sentenced him to two years imprisonment. Ahok is now being imprisoned at the Cipinang Detention Facility.
Although the blasphemy law (Presidential Decree No. 1/PNPS/1965) and Article 156(a) of the Criminal Code were enacted in 1965, they were used to prosecute only around 10 individuals between 1965 and 1998, when former President Suharto was in power, during which time the right to freedom of expression was severely curtailed. Between 2005 and 2014 Amnesty International has recorded at least 106 individuals who have been prosecuted and convicted under blasphemy laws.