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Jakarta's Christian Governor Loses Election, so What's Next for Islamic Blasphemy Case?


The minority Christian governor of Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, has lost his re-election bid to his Muslim opponent.
Former cabinet minister Anies Baswedan won the office with between 55 and 60 percent of the votes with more than half the returns counted.

The outcome of the race highlights the country's religious and racial divide. 

As the incumbent governor, Basuki Purnama is currently on trial for blasphemy, and many Muslims in Jakarta want him imprisoned or killed.

The blasphemy accusations followed statements Purnama made about the misinterpretation of the Koran while campaigning last year. 

He had said his opponents were incorrect when they claimed the Quran prohibits Muslims from having a non-Muslim leader.

"I never had intention of insulting Muslims and insulting the clergy. On that basis, I plead with the judges to consider my exception plea," said Purnama, also known by his nickname Ahok.

However, Ahok could be spared the five-year prison sentence even if he is found guilty of blasphemy. Indonesian prosecutors are calling for him to face two years probation, according to The Guardian

They told the court that Ahok's contribution to the country as governor was a deciding factor in considering a lesser sentence.

"If within the two years, Ahok doesn't commit any new criminal act, like corruption, stealing… he will be free. If within that two years, he does commit a criminal act, he has to serve the one-year jail sentence," his lawyer, I Wayan Sudirta explained.

Ahok's legal team is expected to make a defense next week, followed by the judge's verdict in May.

Ahok was the first ethnic Chinese governor and first non-Muslim to serve in office in Jakarta in more than half a century. 

"Ahok is one of the best governors Jakarta ever had. Ahok does not have a problem with the Muslims. The Muslim are moderate, rational and compatible with democracy. But the Hardliners are rejecting democracy," said Boni Hargens, a Muslim analyst said in February.  

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