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Politics

Ex-Jakarta governor Ahok released from jail

DEPOK, Indonesia (Kyodo) -- The former governor of Indonesia's capital Jakarta gained his freedom Thursday morning after serving 20 months in prison for blasphemy against Islam.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is popularly known by his Chinese name Ahok, had been sentenced to two years in jail in May 2017 in a highly controversial trial, but later had his sentence reduced by four months.

The first-ever ethnic Chinese to serve as Jakarta governor was accused of insulting Islam in the middle of the 2017 gubernatorial election campaign by telling some people not to be deceived by those who use a verse from the Quran to suggest a non-Muslim should not be chosen as a leader.

Those remarks, which were seized upon by his opponents, sparked massive protest rallies in the capital by conservative Islamists.

His subsequent trial and conviction were slammed by human rights groups.

Ahok was defeated by current Gov. Anies Baswedan in the election -- dubbed as the dirtiest in the country's history -- that saw racial and religious issues used to attack the incumbent, a minority Christian and ethnic Chinese.

It was not immediately clear what Ahok, will do after his release, but his lawyer Teguh Samudera said he may go to his hometown on Belitung Island, off Sumatra.

His former deputy Djarot Saiful Hidayat said in a TV interview that Ahok would likely visit Australia and New Zealand to give lectures on his experience as Jakarta governor and in eradicating corruption, as well as to Bali and Japan on holiday.

There is also speculation that the 52-year-old recent divorcee might get remarried as early as next month.

Ahok was the first-ever ethnic Chinese to serve as governor of Jakarta, a metropolis that is 85 percent Muslim, replacing Joko "Jokowi" Widodo who ran for presidency in 2014.

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