9,000 Jailed Christians Receive Sentence Reductions for Christmas in Indonesia

(Photo: Reuters/Darren Whiteside)Supporters of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, stage a protest outside Cipinang Prison, where he was taken following his conviction of blasphemy, in Jakarta, Indonesia, May 9, 2017.

Indonesia reduced the sentences of over 9,000 Christian prisoners on Christmas day, including the sentence of a Christian governor jailed on blasphemy charges.

According to the Jakarta Post, Indonesia's Law and Human Rights Ministry has reduced the sentences of 9,333 Christian inmates. As a result, at least 175 inmates were eligible for release.

"Of the total, 175 inmates were freed upon receiving remissions," a Law and Human Rights Ministry official was quoted as saying.

The news outlet notes that the inmates were eligible for remission this year because of administration and substantive considerations on top of consideration for the type of crimes they committed.

"If an embezzler wants a remission, for instance, they must first obtain justice collaborator status," the official said.

The length of sentence reduction inmates received differed depending on how much of the sentence they had already served. The reductions varied from 15 days to a maximum of two months, Jakarta Post reported, stating that a reduction of a month or longer was given to inmates who have already served anywhere from one to three years.

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(PHOTO: REUTERS/BAGUS INDAHONO)Jakarta's Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama gestures inside the courtroom during his blasphemy trial at the North Jakarta District Court in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Dec. 27, 2016.

A later Jakarta Post article notes that among the Christians who received sentence reductions is former Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who was sentenced to two years in prison earlier this year after he was falsely accused of blasphemy last year.

Purnama was in the midst of a heated re-election campaign in 2016 when a man named Buni Yani posted a doctored video to Facebook that purported to show the Christian governor speaking to residents at the Thousand Islands Regency last September.

The subtitles were edited to make viewers think that Purnama blasphemed the Quran although he he had only issued a warning against politicians who use the Quran for political gain.

The video caused much social uproar among tens of thousands of Muslims in Indonesia, who protested and demanded that Purnama be punished.

Although Yani admitted to editing the video and was even convicted in court of violating Article 32 of the 2011 Information and Electronic Transactions Law, Purnama was sentenced to jail anyway.

According to the Jakarta Post, Purnama's two-year sentence has been reduced by 15 days.

"Pak Ahok has been granted 15 days of remission," Purnama's lawyer, Teguh Samudra, was quoted as saying.

Indonesia ranks as the 46th worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA's 2017 World Watch List. Indonesia is home to the world's largest Muslim population.

According to HeraldMalaysia.com, Indonesia President Joko Widodo issued a message of solidarity for Christians celebrating the Christmas holiday.

In the message, Widodo stated that the "multiculturalism of the Indonesian people is truly a blessing." Widodo added that Christians in Indonesia are often "taken for granted."

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