Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the Christian former governor of Jakarta, known as “Ahok”, has been released early from a jail term for blasphemy.
“Ahok”, who now prefers to be called BTP, was found guilty of blasphemy during a re-election campaign in May 2017 and sentenced to two years in prison, even though prosecutors dropped their claim that he had insulted Islam.
The politician was greeted by a crowd of supporters on 24 January as he was released on grounds of good behaviour from a high security detention centre in Depok, West Java, after serving 20 months of his sentence.
BTP, who was the first non-Muslim governor of the Indonesian capital in 50 years, repeatedly denied during his trial the accusations that he had insulted Islam while campaigning for re-election. Later he said in a public letter from prison that he was grateful to God for the time he spent in jail and that if he had stayed in power he would have become “more arrogant”.
Christians make up around 15% of the population of Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population of any country in the world. The former governor had been tipped for the presidency before Islamists engineered mass protests demanding he face trial for “blasphemy”. Islamists called on Indonesians to only vote for Muslim politicians to “defend Islam”. BTP lost the election to a Muslim candidate who was sworn in to serve a five-year term as Jakarta governor in October 2017.