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Anger in Indonesia over jailed Christian governor

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Basuki Tjahaja Purnama a.k.a Ahok being taken to jail

Hundreds of people gathered outside Jakarta’s city hall on Wednesday to voice support for the Indonesian capital’s Christian governor, who was jailed for two years for blasphemy.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama was sentenced to two years in prison on Tuesday for remarks he made about the Koran that some Muslims deem blasphemous and was immediately sent to prison.

Thousands of his supporters flocked to the prison in eastern Jakarta overnight to demand his release.

Citing security concerns, authorities transferred Purnama to a police detention centre on the outskirts of the capital around midnight.

Purnama, a Christian of Chinese descent, said he would appeal the decision. Prosecutors had originally requested a one-year jail term, suspended for two years.

The crowd outside the city hall, mostly dressed in red, brought flowers and sang patriotic songs, led by famous Indonesian musician Addie MS.

Human rights group Amnesty International said that Purnama’s jailing would tarnish Indonesia’s reputation as a tolerant nation.

“This verdict demonstrates the inherent injustice of Indonesia’s blasphemy law, which should be repealed immediately,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s director for South-east Asia and the Pacific.

Purnama lost a re-election bid in last month’s gubernatorial election to a Muslim candidate, Anies Baswedan.

During an official function in September, Purnama told local residents that his opponents had “lied” to them by saying the Koran prohibited them from voting for a non-Muslim governor.

A video of his speech became available online and led to hundreds of thousands of Muslims demanding his prosecution during rallies in the following months.

Purnama’s election rival, Baswedan, was backed by conservative Muslims who wanted Purnama jailed for the perceived insult to Islam.

Once the clear favourite for a second term, Purnama saw his poll numbers fall after the blasphemy accusations.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, but Christians make up about 10 per cent of its 250 million people.

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