World

Supporters rally for Ahok; he says 'fight not over yet'

JAKARTA Supporters of Jakarta's Christian governor staged a rally outside city hall yesterday, a day after he was jailed for blasphemy.

A crowd wearing red and white, the colours of the Indonesian flag, gathered outside the 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 Basuki's deputy, to cheers from the crowd.

Basuki, also known as Ahok, was jailed on Tuesday for two years after being found guilty of blasphemy against Islam, a shock decision as prosecutors recommended only probation.

The jail sentence and his loss in last month's Jakarta election to a Muslim rival have stoked concerns that a much-vaunted brand of tolerant Islam in Indonesia 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".

The blasphemy conviction stemmed from comments that Basuki had made in a pre-election speech last year, in which he accused his rivals of using a verse in the Quran to trick people into voting against him.

Despite his legal woes, the 50-year-old has retained a loyal following due to his determined efforts to clean up the chaotic Indonesian capital. Over 1,000 supporters packed the courtyard of city hall, chanting "Free Ahok".

"I admire Ahok, the way he leads, regardless of his religion," said Ms Diana Sari, 49, a Muslim.

Acting governor Djarot 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'."

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

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