Jakarta Governor Ahok to face court on blasphemy charges: Attorney General's Office

Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama leaves the stage after meeting with supporters while campaigning for the upcoming election for governor in Jakarta, Indonesia on Nov 16, 2016.
Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama leaves the stage after meeting with supporters while campaigning for the upcoming election for governor in Jakarta, Indonesia on Nov 16, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - Jakarta gubernatorial candidate Basuki Tjahaja Purnama will be charged in court for blasphemy, said Indonesia's Attorney- General's Office (AGO) on Wednesday (Nov 30).

Mr Noor Rachmad, who is Deputy Attorney-General for Crimes, told reporters during a press conference that the AGO studied the case dossier put together by the police, and concluded that Mr Basuki has a case to answer for in court. 

He said facts revealed in police investigations found that the politician had breached clauses 156 and 156 (a) of the Criminal Code, which covers blasphemy offences.  

He did not say when Mr Basuki will have to appear in court but added that the AGO will "prepare and complete the indictments for this case as soon as possible".

If found guilty of blasphemy, Mr Basuki, who is better known as Ahok, faces a maximum jail term of five years. 

The Straits Times understands that the AGO will first need to file the indictments against Mr Basuki at a district court for a senior judge to appoint a panel of three judges to hear the case.

This means it could take weeks before the case eventually is heard in court.

In the meantime, Mr Basuki has vowed to carry on his campaign. Lawyers have said he can continue in the election, and should he win but is convicted, he will remain in office until the court appeal process has been exhausted.

The 50-year-old is in a three-way contest as he seeks to be re-elected as Jakarta governor in February next year.

Initially a hot favourite for the poll, he has seen his popularity drop after a video clip of him talking to a group of constituents in September was posted online. In the video, he allegedly told them not to be misled by his opponents who cited a verse in the Quran to urge Muslims not to vote for a non-Muslim.

Despite apologising, his remarks incensed hardline Muslim groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), which staged a large-scale protest to call for his arrest earlier this month, following a smaller street march last month.

The FPI has planned another street rally on Friday and promised to mobilise even more than the 100,000 said to have attended the public protest on Nov 4.

The group, however, has brokered a deal with the police to  hold rallies in the confines of the National Monument park in Jakarta instead.

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