Jakarta governor Ahok's blasphemy trial to go ahead, say judges

Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama attending his trial at the North Jakarta District Court, on Dec 20, 2016.
Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama attending his trial at the North Jakarta District Court, on Dec 20, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

JAKARTA - An Indonesian court ruled on Tuesday (Dec 27) that it will proceed with the blasphemy trial against Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, agreeing with prosecutors that the charges are in line with the law. 

Presiding judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto said evidence of the impact of Mr Basuki's alleged blasphemy is not needed for the prosecutors to charge the governor with the offence, which carries a maximum jail term of five years upon conviction. 

He also said: "This is not a verdict to rule whether the defendant is guilty or not. Today we only decided on the formality, not the substance of the case."

The next hearing is set for Jan 3.

The court's provisional ruling means that it will start inviting the witnesses and experts proposed by both prosecution and defence to testify in the next couple of hearings, before judges issue a verdict. 

 

Mr Basuki, an ethnic Chinese Christian better known by his nickname Ahok, is accused of insulting Muslims by claiming during an election campaign rally his political opponents were using the Quran to sway voters against him.

His lawyers had said the indictment was legally flawed, arguing that the prosecutors should have presented evidence showing Mr Basuki's actions had caused damage. 

The 50-year-old has said he did not intend any insult. 

"I had not intended to interpret Al-Maidah (Quran verse)... or insult Islam and the Muslim clerics. The remarks were meant for unscrupulous politicians who had used the Al-Maidah verse incorrectly because they did not want to compete fairly in the election," the governor said in his first appearance in court on Dec 13. 
 
Mr Basuki said he had contributed to the Muslim community, such as supporting programmes to build mosques. He said he has many Muslim friends and even his adoptive parents are pious Muslims. His adoptive Muslim brother even paid for his college education.

"I am very sad that I've been accused of insulting Islam, because the allegations are tantamount to me saying that I have insulted my adoptive parents and siblings, whom I love and who love me," he said tearfully on Dec 13.

Mr Basuki had apologised previously for his remarks, but police went ahead with investigations in a bid to defuse tensions amid massive street protests led by Muslim hardliners against the governor.

The governor is running for a second term in the gubernatorial election on Feb 15 in a three-corner contest against Mr Agus Harimurti, son of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Mr Anies Baswedan, former education and culture minister.