ASEAN lawmakers alarmed at conviction of Jakarta governor
Lawmakers across Southeast Asia have expressed concern over the sentencing of Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, to two years in prison for blasphemy on Tuesday.
“The verdict is deeply disconcerting not only for Indonesia but for the entire ASEAN region. Indonesia was thought to be a regional leader in terms of democracy and openness. This decision places that position in jeopardy and raises concerns about Indonesia’s future as an open, tolerant, diverse society,” said Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian Parliament and chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).
“Ahok has become a victim of rising extremism and religious identity politics. But this decision has impacts beyond justice for one individual. It is a triumph for intolerance and an ominous sign for minority rights. At a time when fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and freedom of religion, are under increasing threat region-wide, this verdict sends the wrong signal to Indonesia’s neighbors in the ASEAN community,” he said in a written statement.
Ahok, Jakarta’s second Christian governor after Henk Ngantung (1964-1965), was convicted of blasphemy by the North Jakarta District Court and sentenced to two years in prison.
The charges stemmed from a September speech, in which he invoked a verse from the Quran in criticizing the arguments of those who suggested that Muslims could not vote for a Christian leader.
APHR said the ruling could embolden religious hard-liners in the country and called into further question Indonesia’s harsh Blasphemy Law, which permits prison sentences of up to five years for those found guilty.