Former Jakarta governor to appeal blasphemy decision in Indonesia's Supreme Court

The guilty verdict of an Islamist found to have tampered with video footage of a speech given by former Jakarta governor known as “Ahok” is being used to petition Indonesia’s top court to overturn Ahok’s blasphemy conviction.

Former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama was sentenced to two years in prison last May after several conservative Islamic groups filed a case against him claiming he had insulted the Koran in a statement he made on his re-election campaign trail.

In November last year, Buni Yani, a communications lecturer and Islamist, was found guilty of tampering with video footage of Ahok’s speech, to make his comments about the Koran appear more inflammatory. Ahok is a Christian and ethnically Chinese, popular among moderate Muslims, but some of his decisions have earned him some enemies, particularly among hard-line Muslims from the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). The FPI declared that no Muslim should vote for him based on the Qur’anic verse Q.5:51. In response to the allegations, Ahok said that his opponents had deceived voters by attacking him using a verse from the Koran.

Ahok’s sister and lawyer Fifi Lety Indra said this week that the guilty verdict against Buni Yani regarding the video tampering was the basis for Ahok’s case review request.

Another of Ahok’s lawyers, I Wayan Sudirta told The Australian that Ahok had chosen not to seek a review of his case directly after the conviction of Buni Yani in November.

“He was sure that filing an appeal then would only aggravate the situation. He is a very (calculating) man. He knew that filing a case review when the time is right was the better option,” he said.

Commentators pointed to Ahok’s blasphemy case as a sign of the growing tide of religious intolerance in Indonesia, which has the largest Sunni Muslim population in the world. Hundreds of thousands of Indonesians took to the streets in protest, calling for Ahok’s arrest, after footage of his speech which included the statement about the Koran went viral on YouTube. According to Al Jazeera, the protests were some of the largest Indonesia has ever seen.