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Jakarta’s Former Christian Governor Released from Prison
01/24/2019 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on January 24, 2019, the former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian politician, was released from prison after serving nearly two years on blasphemy charges. The former governor, commonly known as “Ahok,” walked free from Mako Brimob detention facility and was welcomed by his son Nicholas Sean.
The former governor was found guilty of blasphemy for a comment he made, quoting the Quran while campaigning for re-election. The verdict raised the question of Indonesia’s claimed freedom of religion and remains a controversial issue ahead of this April’s presidential election.
In a letter to supporters that was shared on Twitter last week, he thanked God for allowing him to lose the gubernatorial election and serve his prison term. If he had won, he believes that he would have only become “more arrogant, ruder” and hurt the feelings of many others.
“I also want to apologize to Ahokers [my supporters], all of Jakarta’s civil servants, even my haters, of all the things that I’ve said and done that have hurt you and your family,” he said.
Urging his supporters to call him by his Indonesian initials “BTP” and not his Hakka nickname “Ahok,” he added, “I am sorry and I hope that you will call me BTP now, not Ahok.”
Jacob F. Lesmana, an ethnic Chinese Christian in Jakarta told ICC, “Ahok really fulfills the criteria of being a leader who can inspire many people both in terms of people of faith and on the secular side. The main reason is that he has a set purpose in life so his vision is clear. He understands his calling and what he lives for. All the principles of his life are guided by the biblical principle of Truth. It takes a lot to build a life like his.”
BTP’s lawyer Teguh Samudera said the former governor plans to venture into the oil business next, while also hosting a talk show. He will also fulfill previously arranged speaking engagements in New Zealand, Japan, and Europe.
Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “While we rejoice at the early release of BTP given a granted remission last December, he should never have been imprisoned in the first place. He was not the only victim of Indonesia’s blasphemy law. He will likely not be the last one either if the Indonesian government continues to yield to radical Islamists’ requests instead of honoring religious freedom for all citizens.”