The Christian governor of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, has been found guilty of blasphemy against Islam and sentenced to two years behind bars, a judge says. The sentence against Basuki Tjahaja Purnama came on Tuesday amid cheers by crowds of Muslims who had gathered outside the court as Judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto read the ruling.
According to the verdict, Purnama was “found to have legitimately and convincingly conducted a criminal act of blasphemy, and because of that we have imposed two years of imprisonment.”
Another judge, Abdul Rosyad, said other reasons for the stiff sentence were that “the defendant didn’t feel guilt; the defendant’s act has caused anxiety and hurt Muslims.”
Purnama, meanwhile, said he would appeal the court’s decision.
He was summoned to court last year to face trial on charges of insulting Islam while campaigning for reelection, in a case that his supporters and other critics describe as politically motivated.
The controversy began in September when the governor, known for his outspoken style, offended Muslims by mockingly quoting a passage from the Qur’an during his reelection campaign.
Purnama ended up losing his reelection bid to a Muslim rival named Anies Baswedan in an April runoff election.
He denied wrongdoing, but apologized for his comments.
Blasphemy carries a maximum jail term of five years. Prosecutors in the case had called for a suspended one-year jail term on charges of hate speech.
This is while Muslim groups and activists in Jakarta had called for the maximum penalty possible over Purnama’s remarks.
Thousands of police officers were deployed to the capital on Tuesday to ensure security in case clashes broke out between the governor’s supporters and his opponents, but there were no immediate signs of violence following the announcement of the court’s verdict.
The development came as foreign-based rights groups and local critics have censured the government for not doing enough to protect religious minorities.
However, President Joko Widodo, who is a key ally of Purnama, had called for restraint over the trial and urged all sides to respect the legal process.