Indonesians call for jailing of Christian governor

A muslim protester shouts slogans during a protest against Jakarta's Christian Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Friday, May 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim) A muslim protester shouts slogans during a protest against Jakarta's Christian Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Friday, May 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

Thousands of conservative Muslims took to the streets of the Indonesian capital on Friday to call for the jailing of its minority Christian governor who is on trial on charges of blaspheming the Quran.

At least several thousand white-robed protesters marched after Friday prayers at Istiqlal Mosque in central Jakarta until reaching the nearby Supreme Court building.

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The protest comes just days before a district court announces its verdict in Gov. Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's blasphemy trial.

Some of the protesters held flags, banners and placards that said "Justice must be upheld" and "Ahok, the blasphemer of Islam, must be jailed."

Prosecutors last month recommended a two-year suspended prison sentence for Ahok. The relatively light sentencing demand was made a day after Ahok was defeated by a landslide election victory for a Muslim rival backed by conservative clerics. Ahok's term as governor ends in October.

The maximum penalty for blasphemy in Muslim-majority Indonesia is five years in prison. Prosecutors recommended one-year prison if Ahok violates his probation.

"We are here because we are disappointed with prosecutors who were blind and deaf to the aspirations of Muslims," said Bahruddin Rabbani, an Islamic boarding school teacher from Banten, a neighboring province of Jakarta.

Ahok was accused of blasphemy last year when a video surfaced of him telling voters they were being deceived if they believed a specific verse in the Quran prohibited Muslims from electing a non-Muslim as leader.

Hard-line Islamic groups have attracted hundreds of thousands to anti-Ahok protests in Jakarta, shaking the government of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and undermining Indonesia's reputation for practicing a moderate form of Islam.

"We believe that Ahok's use of our holy Quran for political campaigning constituted blasphemy," said another protester, Ahmad Salman. "We want to see the blasphemer of Islam in jail."

A verdict from the five-judge panel is expected on Tuesday.

 

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