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Indonesia: A blasphemy trial begins

Ahok's blasphemy trial begins
Ahok's blasphemy trial begins
Welcome to the 21st century!

Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama will receive legal assistance from 80 lawyers for his blasphemy trial, which will start on Tuesday at the North Jakarta District Court – now temporarily located at the former Central Jakarta District Court building on Jl. Gajah Mada No.17, Central Jakarta.

Indonesian court gives go-ahead to blasphemy trial of Jakarta governor Ahok


Basuki Tjahaja Purnama has denied he intended to insult the Qu’ran while campaigning

An Indonesian court will proceed with a controversial blasphemy trial against Jakarta’s Christian governor, who is accused of insulting the Qur’an, a judge said on Tuesday.

The case is seen as a test of religious freedom in the Muslim-majority nation.

A panel of judges rejected a call by lawyers defending governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is known by his nickname Ahok, to strike down the case because it had violated the ethnic Chinese politician’s human rights and breached procedures.

“The exception by the defendant will be considered and decided by the court after examination of all evidence. The defendant’s exception is not accepted,” said judge Abdul Rosyad.

A tearful Ahok denied at his first hearing on 13 December that he had intended to insult the Qur’an while he was campaigning ahead of elections in February for the governorship of Jakarta, capital of the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.

Ahok angered religious conservatives after he referenced a verse from the Islamic holy book, Al-Maidah 51 of the Qur’an, rather boldly telling voters they should not be duped by religious leaders using the verse to justify the claim that Muslims should not be led by non-Muslims.

On Tuesday hundreds of white-clad Muslim protesters chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) outside the court in north Jakarta and called for the jailing of the governor.

A smaller group of his supporters were also present outside the courthouse, which was flanked by lines of police.

The presiding judge on the panel, Dwiyarso Budi Santiarto, said the defence could appeal to a higher court if they did not agree with the decision to proceed with the case.

Ahok, after consulting his lawyers, told the court he would consider doing so.

The governor was named a suspect after hundreds of thousands of people, led by Muslim hardliners, attended rallies in recent months calling for his arrest.

Blasphemy convictions in Indonesia can carry a jail term of up to five years and nearly always result in conviction.

Amnesty International has criticised the law for hurting freedom of expression and for targeting religious minorities.

President Joko Widodo, seen as an Ahok ally, has blamed “political actors” for fuelling the protests, but declined to elaborate.

As governor, Ahok has won credit for cutting red tape and improving the performance of Jakarta’s bloated bureaucracy. However, his abrasive language and insistence on clearing city slums has alienated many voters.

After suffering a slide in support in opinion polls, Ahok has rebounded to become the frontrunner again in the election race to lead Jakarta, according to a poll by the Indonesian Survey Institute earlier this month.

The next court hearing is scheduled for 3 January and will be moved to an auditorium in the agriculture ministry in the south of the city for security reasons, authorities said.

Sources: DPN, Jan. 14, 2017; The Jakarta Post, Jan. 14, 2017; The Guardian, Dec. 26, 2016

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