World Bulletin / News Desk
Jakarta's Christian governor may escape jail for alleged blasphemy after prosecutors Thursday recommended only probation, a day after he lost in a religiously charged run-off that damaged Indonesia's image as a bastion of tolerant Islam.
The sentence demand for allegedly insulting Islam came after he was defeated Wednesday by Muslim challenger Anies Baswedan who was accused of pandering to hardliners to win votes in the race for the Jakarta governorship.
After his victory, former government minister Baswedan celebrated with Islamic hardliners who helped organise mass protests in the capital against the governor by praying at a major mosque.
The blasphemy allegations and Purnama's subsequent poll loss have sparked fears that pluralistic traditions in the world's most populous Muslim country are under threat from the influence of hardliners, who pushed for the governor's prosecution.
Chief prosecutor Ali Mukartono recommended that Purnama, known by his nickname Ahok, be found guilty of blasphemy and be given two years probation, with a possible one-year jail sentence.
He said a light sentence was being recommended as Purnama had contributed to "advancing the city of Jakarta" and had acted politely during his trial.
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Duterte, who has faced international condemnation for his own crackdown on drugs that has claimed thousands of lives, also insisted that outsiders should not interfere in Southeast Asia's affairs.
The government's human rights commission discovered a dozen men and women packed into the tiny cell behind a wooden cabinet during an unannounced visit to a police station in a Manila slum neighbourhood on Thursday.
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Comparisons with the characters of a popular Chinese television drama called "In the Name of the People" -- which also happens to be the slogan of French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen -- have flooded China's Twitter-like Weibo.
Diplomats in Manila said the other parties apparently refer to the United States and regional powers China, Japan and South Korea -- all key strategic players in the region.
Human Rights Watch said the incident was another sign of widespread rights abuse under Duterte's war on drugs, which has seen thousands of drug suspects killed either by policemen or mysterious vigilantes.
US-led NATO troops have been at war in Afghanistan since 2001, after the ousting of the Taliban regime for refusing to hand over Osama bin Laden following the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
The two countries have been in a security alliance since the 1950-53 Korean war, and more than 28,000 US troops are stationed in the South.