Jakarta. Human rights group Wahid Foundation — named after Indonesia's fourth president Abdurrahman Wahid — said on Friday (12/05) that religious interpretations and expressions should not be likened to hate speech and urged the government to abolish the country’s blasphemy law.
On Tuesday, Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama was sentenced to two years of imprisonment for blasphemy against Islam. The sentence was heavier than the prosecutors' demand.
"The blasphemy law is against freedom of religious belief and freedom of expression. This law had sent more than 100 people to jail since 2014. This law shouldn’t be used anymore [...] it should be abolished," Wahid Foundation chairwoman Yenny Wahid — Abdurrahman's daughter — said in a statement received by the Jakarta Globe.
The foundation also emphasized that "religious interpretations and expressions of peaceful intent should not be prosecuted."
Yenny said the court’s decision should still be respected, and mass demonstrations should not be organized "to impose views on the ongoing legal process."
A series of shows of solidarity with Ahok was organized across Indonesia following the court verdict announcement. Many of his supporters gathered in front of Cipinang Prison in East Jakarta on Tuesday night and at City Hall and Proklamasi Monument in Central Jakarta on Wednesday.
The statement added that disagreements on the verdict against Ahok should "be expressed through available legal mechanisms."
Indonesia’s continued use of the blasphemy law has come under fire with Ahok’s sentencing, as citizens and international rights organizations such as the United Nations Human Rights Council and American-funded international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch called on the government to review Article 156a of the Criminal Code on religious defamation, with the intent to abolish it.
Launched in 2004, Wahid Foundation is an Indonesian-based human rights group whose work has focused on religious freedom and interfaith dialogues.