Man Responsible for Jailed Indonesian Governor's Blasphemy Accusations Convicted of Hate Speech

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.
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. | (PHOTO: REUTERS/BAGUS INDAHONO)

The man responsible for the blasphemy accusation against the jailed former Christian governor of Indonesia's capital has been sentenced to 18 months in prison after he was found guilty of doctoring video of the politician speaking in September 2016.

The Jakarta Post reports that Buni Yani was sentenced to one-and-a-half years in prison by the Bandung District Court in West Java for violating Article 32 of the 2011 Information and Electronic Transactions Law. However, the court ruled that Yani was not to be detained immediately.

"It has been proven. The defendant is guilty as charged," presiding judge M. Saptono said during the hearing, according to Straits Times.

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Yani was convicted of spreading hate speech by altering video of then-Jakarta Gov. Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama speaking with residents at the Thousand Islands Regency last September. The video subtitles were edited to make it appear as though Ahok was blaspheming the Quran even though he was simply warning against politicians who use the Quran for political gain.

The video caused an extreme social uproar as tens of thousands of Muslims protested in the streets and called for Purnama to be jailed and punished.

Yani, a communications professor at the London School in Central Jakarta, evan admitted that he edited the video to make it seem like the governor was insulting Muslims and their holy book. The video came as Purnama was in the thick of a hotly contested election, which he lost to his Muslim challenger, Anies Baswedan.

In addition to losing the race, Purnama was sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy in May because of Yani's video. The court ruled that Purnama was "found to have legitimately and convincingly conducted a criminal act of blasphemy."

The former governor's lawyers voiced their disapproval with Yani's light sentencing and continue to argue that their client shouldn't have been jailed to begin with.

"Buni Yani created chaos. With this sentence, Pak Ahok should not have been punished at all," one of Ahok lawyers, I Wayan Sudirta, was quoted as saying.

Another lawyer, Teguh Samudra, told The Jakarta Post that it is incomprehensible that Yani was given such a light sentence.

"It should be heavier than Pak Ahok's sentence, plus he should be sent to prison immediately," Teguh asserted.

Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) politician Mohamad Guntur Romli told Netral News that the court's ruling that Yani didn't have to be detained immediately because he wasn't detained during the trial is "unfair" considering that Purnama was detained even though he appealed his sentence.

"This verdict is unfair when compared to Ahok's, who was sentenced to two years in prison and was directly detained," Guntur said. "Ahok was also not arrested during the trial process, the same as Buni Yani."

"I hope the prosecutor appeals and continues to follow up on Buni Yani's case so that justice can be enforced and crime can receive punishment and sanction as fair as possible," Guntur added.

As Reuters reported, there were fears that Purnama's two-year sentence for a trumped-up blasphemy charge would embolden hardline Islamist forces in the country.

Indonesia ranks as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians, according to Open Doors USA's World Watch List.

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