Jakarta’s Christian ex-governor, known widely and simply as “Ahok”, finally walked out of prison on 24 January, after serving nearly two years for blasphemy.
He was granted early release, four months ahead of schedule, for good behavior.
The Chinese Christian, whose real name is Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, was accused of insulting Islam, and was charged with blasphemy in December 2016 while he was running for re-election as governor of Indonesia’s capital.
In May 2017 a court found him guilty of blasphemy based on a video that showed him accusing his political opponents of using Quranic verses to dissuade Muslims from voting for him.
The video turned out to be doctored by a communications professor from Jakarta, Buni Yani, who was found guilty of ‘hate speech’ and sent to prison in November 2017.
Despite the new evidence and the conviction of Buni Yani, an appeal by the former governor was rejected by the Supreme Court.
Ahok was however freed from prison 24 January, after serving nearly two years for blasphemy.
Outside prison in West-Java he was greeted by his eldest son and Nicholas and a group of supporters.
In a letter to his supporters earlier, he asked people not to come to prison to welcome him, out of concern “for the common good” and “for the sake of public order”, according to the Catholic news service UCAN.
“Ahok will finally be out of prison and reunited with his family, but he should never have been imprisoned in the first place,” Elaine Pearson of Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.
“Ahok’s unjust conviction is a reminder that minorities in Indonesia are at risk so long as the abusive blasphemy law remains in place.”
Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch described the verdict as “a huge setback” for Indonesia’s record of tolerance and for minorities.
“If someone like Ahok, the governor of the capital, backed by the country’s largest political party, ally of the president, can be jailed on groundless accusations, what will others do?,” he said.
Indonesia ranks number 30 in Open Door’s list of top 50 countries where it is most deadly to be a christian.