Responding to the release of former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahja Purnama after serving two years in prison on charges of “blasphemy”, Amnesty International Indonesia’s Executive Director Usman Hamid said:
“A long-suffering prisoner of conscience walks free at last, but this is hardly cause for celebration. Ahok should not have spent a day in prison, all he did was peacefully express his opinion. The use of blasphemy laws must stop immediately and the government must repeal them.”
“There are currently 22 more prisoners of conscience still serving sentences on the same or similarly abusive charges of ‘makar’ or ‘rebellion’. They must all be released immediately and unconditionally.”
Ahok was convicted and immediately sentenced to two years’ imprisonment on 9 May 2017 for blasphemy under Articles 156 and 156(a) of Indonesia’s Criminal Code. He received a total of two months remission for good behavior in prison. Ahok, who is a Christian, was accused of ‘insulting Islam’ in a video posted on the internet after he announced publicly that he would re-run as the Governor of Jakarta candidate in the 2017 election.
The video was harshly criticized by many hard-line religious groups and generated nationwide mass demonstrations between November 2016 and May 2017, calling for him to be charged with defamation of Islam.