Christian governor's conviction in blasphemy case sparks protests in Jakarta

The conviction of Jakarta's Christian governor in a blasphemy case has sparked protests from his supporters in Indonesia and abroad who decried the two-year jail sentence as a trial by publicity and a form of discrimination.

(Antara Foto / Sigid Kurniawan / via REUTERS)Supporters of former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, gather at city hall a day after after a court sentenced him to two years in jail following blasphemy charges, in Jakarta, Indonesia May 10, 2017 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Pictured on the inflatable ball is Ahok and new acting Jakarta governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat.

On May 9, a court in Jakarta declared Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, aka "Ahok," guilty of blasphemy against Islam and sentenced him to two years in jail. The following day, around 1,000 people clad in red and white showed up at City Hall to show their support for the Christian governor through the choral singing of Indonesia's national anthem, The Guardian details.

Other supporters of Ahok expressed their opposition to the blasphemy conviction by posting Twitter messages using the hashtag #RIPHukumIndonesia. This means "rest in peace Indonesian law."

For Jakarta-based rights group Setara Institute, Ahok's conviction was a "trial by mob." The European Union, on the other hand, spoke out against blasphemy laws that hinder freedom of expression and religion.

"The EU has consistently stated that laws that criminalise blasphemy when applied in a discriminatory manner can have a serious inhibiting effect on freedom of expression and on freedom of religion or belief," the EU delegation to Indonesia said in the statement published on its website.

Meanwhile, Ahok had asked his supporters gathered outside the National Police's Mobile Brigade detention center to disperse. Speaking through a loudspeaker connected to his detention room, the Christian governor assured them that he is safe inside, The Star Online reports.

"To my friends in front of the Brimob headquarters, I'm calling on you, who have gathered here to support me, to disperse," quotes Ahok. "I'm safe here. I hope you can disperse now. Otherwise, I will be taken to another place. Should I be taken outside Jakarta? Ladies and gentlemen, if you love me, please disperse."

Ahok worried that his supporters would be provoked if they stay outside the facility. Aside from the request for dispersal of the protesters, he also said he hopes that his supporters will not hold any candlelight vigils for him.