SUP­PORT­ERS RALLY FOR AHOK’S RE­LEASE

More than 1,000 sup­port­ers pack the court­yard of city hall

New Straits Times - - World -

JAKARTA

SUP­PORT­ERS of Jakarta’s Chris­tian gov­er­nor staged a colour­ful rally out­side city hall yes­ter­day a day af­ter he was jailed for blas­phemy, in a case that has dam­aged the coun­try’s im­age as a bas­tion of tol­er­ant Is­lam.

A crowd wear­ing red and white — the colours of the In­done­sian flag — gath­ered out­side the colo­nial-era build­ing call­ing for Ba­suki Tja­haja Pur­nama’s re­lease, and singing the na­tional an­them.

“Let’s fight for jus­tice,” said act­ing gov­er­nor Djarot Saiful Hidayat, who was Pur­nama’s deputy and has taken over his pow­ers, to cheers from the crowd.

Pur­nama was jailed on Tues­day for two years af­ter be­ing found guilty of blas­phemy against Is­lam, a shock af­ter pros­e­cu­tors rec­om­mended only pro­ba­tion.

The jail sen­tence and his loss in last month’s city elec­tion to a Mus­lim ri­val amid the blas­phemy con­tro­versy have stoked con­cerns that a much-vaunted brand of tol­er­ant Is­lam in the world’s most pop­u­lous Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­try is un­der threat.

The United Na­tions and Euro­pean Union have ex­pressed con­cerns over the ver­dict, while Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said it “will tar­nish In­done­sia’s rep­u­ta­tion for tol­er­ance”.

De­spite the claims he in­sulted Is­lam, Pur­nama, 50, re­tained a loyal fol­low­ing due to his de­ter­mined ef­forts to clean up the chaotic cap­i­tal.

Over 1,000 sup­port­ers packed out the court­yard of city hall at the rally, chant­ing “Free Ahok”.

“I ad­mire Ahok, the way he leads, re­gard­less of his re­li­gion,” said Diana Sari, 49, adding she was a Mus­lim.

Act­ing gov­er­nor Hidayat added: “Last night I met with Ahok and he wants me to con­vey this mes­sage: ‘We have to re­spect what­ever the judges have de­cided, but the fight is not over yet’.”

Pur­nama was trans­ferred early yes­ter­day to a high-se­cu­rity de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity out­side the cap­i­tal af­ter hun­dreds of sup­port­ers de­scended on the jail where he was ini­tially sent.

Hard­lin­ers, who led a se­ries of mass protests last year against Pur­nama, cel­e­brated af­ter the ver­dict was handed down, although some were an­gry the gov­er­nor did not re­ceive the max­i­mum jail term of five years. AFP

AGENCY PIX

Sup­port­ers of Ba­suki Tja­haja Pur­nama, also known as Ahok, gath­er­ing at Jakarta City Hall to call for his re­lease yes­ter­day.

Ahok sup­port­ers re­act­ing af­ter his ver­dict (above) and push­ing a gate at the Cip­inang Prison where the Jakarta gov­er­nor is be­ing held on Tues­day (left).

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