A key figure behind the jailing of the Christian former Governor of Jakarta for blasphemy has been sentenced to one and a half years in jail for hate speech.
However, a West Java court ruled on Tuesday (14 November) that the defendant, Buni Yani, should not be detained immediately.
A panel of judges found Yani, a communications professor at the London School in Central Jakarta, guilty of violating the 2011 Information and Electronic Transactions Law, or Cyber Law, the Jakarta Post reported.
The judges said Yani had disturbed the peace and refused to admit his wrongdoings.
He had previously admitted to having doctored a video in which the then-governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, warned voters against people using Quranic verses for political gain, but said he had done so by mistake. Subtitles on a video of Ahok were edited to make it appear as though the politician was criticising the Quran. According to AsiaNews, Ahok said: “Do not believe everything that people say . . . because often you are deceived by using verse 51 of Al Maidah [the fifth surah of the Quran]. However, the word “using” was edited out, thereby creating the impression that Ahok was saying the Quran deceives Muslims.
The edited video went viral and sparked online protests and demonstrations on the streets. Ahok, who was campaigning to win a second term as Jakarta governor, found public opinion rapidly turn against him and was in May found guilty and handed a two-year sentence for blasphemy against Islam, which prompted condemnation from human rights groups and led to counter-demonstrations and vigils calling for his release. Prosecutors in the case against Yani had hoped to present Ahok as a witness against him, but one of Ahok’s lawyers, Rolas Sitinjak, said the prison authorities prevented this, saying he was being held too far from the trial and was in poor health.
The former governor’s lawyers voiced their disappointment that Yani’s sentence was not longer, and argued that their client should never have been jailed. “Buni Yani created chaos. With this sentence … Ahok should not have been punished at all,” one of the lawyers, I Wayan Sudirta, said.
Before the trial, in November 2016, UCA News reported that Syafi’i Ma’arif, the former chairman of Muhammadiyah, the second largest Islamic group in Indonesia, there was “no blasphemy” in the video, and that the charges against the Christian governor had been fabricated for political purposes.