World

Ahok appeals blasphemy conviction as UN steps up pressure

JAKARTA: Jakarta's jailed former Christian governor appealed his conviction for blaspheming Islam yesterday, his legal team said, as the United Nations stepped up pressure on Indonesia to overturn the controversial sentence.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, was jailed for two years earlier this month for insulting the Quran, a shock decision that has undermined a reputation for religious tolerance in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.

Lawyers for Purnama, who is currently in detention, filed the appeal in Jakarta. They believe the judges' decision did not properly take into account testimony from defence witnesses, lawyer Ronny Talapessy said.

"The verdict not only stunned us and the prosecutors, the whole world was left in disbelief," he said.

The lawyers also urged the court to release Purnama on bail, Jakarta's first non-Muslim governor for half a century and its first ethnic Chinese leader, while his appeal is ongoing.

The sentence was widely criticised as too harsh after prosecutors had demanded that he be given just two years' probation.

Prosecutors in the case have already filed an appeal against the decision to jail Purnama.

The appeal came as a group of UN human rights experts urged Indonesia to free the 50-year-old and repeal the country's blasphemy laws, which critics say have been repeatedly used to target minorities.

"We urge the government to overturn Mr Purnama's sentence on appeal or to extend to him whatever form of clemency may be available under Indonesian law so that he may be released from prison immediately," said a statement from the experts.

Purnama was hauled to court last year to face trial for allegedly insulting Islam while campaigning for re-election, after the claims sparked major protests in Jakarta. - AFP

indonesiareligionpolitics