A Christian, former governor of Jakarta Basuki Tjahaja Purnama known as “Ahok” was set free in Indonesia Thursday after serving nearly two years in prison for blasphemy.
“you are wrong if you believed a specific verse in the Quran forbids Muslims from voting for non-Muslims” he said this during his unsuccessful re-election campaign in 2016.
Islamic hardliners, some of whom have called for a caliphate to replace Indonesia’s democracy, said those comments were blasphemy.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters filled the streets in Indonesia to protest Ahok’s remarks.
He was later convicted and sentenced to two years in prison by a five-judge panel.
“We want to turn Indonesia into a true Muslim nation, and we succeeded with Ahok,” said Novel Bamukmin, a radical Islamist who helped lead the rallies, told the New York Times.
Critics said the sentence showed why Indonesia’s blasphemy law could be easily abused and should be repealed.
“I have being studying a problem for years which is that radical Islam is really on the rise in Indonesia,” and Ahok’s case disclosed it to a lot of people. Andreas Harsono, a researcher with Human Rights Watch in Jakarta commented.
However, Ahok says he doesn’t regret his imprisonment.
“If we could go back in time and someone asked which would you choose [Going to prison or winning the election] I would say I choose to be imprisoned at Mako to study for two years, so that I could maintain self-discipline for the rest of my life,” he wrote in an Instagram post a few days before he was released. “If I were re-elected, I would have become more arrogant, rough, and I would have hurt people” He said.