[JURIST] Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama [BBC backgrounder] was sentenced Tuesday to two years in prison after being found guilty of blasphemy [Criminal Code Article 156, PDF] by an Indonesian court [official website]. Ahok is Christian and the charges came as a result of his reference to a Qur’an verse used by conservative leaders to justify the claim that Muslims should not be led by non-Muslims. Ahok was detained [Jakarta Post report] immediately following the verdict, drawing criticism from human rights groups [AI press release, PDF] and praise from members of conservative Islamic groups.
Blasphemy laws [JURIST news archive] have been a controversial issue in several countries. In 2010, the Irish Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform proposed referendum [JURIST report] to remove the criminal offense of blasphemy from the Irish Constitution, and in 2008, the UK House of Lords voted to abolish [JURIST report] the criminal offenses of blasphemy and blasphemous libel from the UK common law. Earlier this year, however, a Sharia high court in Nigeria sentenced cleric Abdulaziz Dauda and nine others to death [JURIST report] for committing blasphemy against the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and this past February, a Pakistani man was executed for his part in murdering a politician [JURIST report] who supported a Christian who had been convicted of blasphemy.