Jakarta governor's blasphemy case now with A-G

The fate of Jakarta gubernatorial candidate Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is facing charges for insulting Islam, is now in the hands of Indonesia's Attorney- General's Office (AGO).

National police chief Tito Karnavian yesterday confirmed that the case was handed over to state prosecutors last Friday, after the police completed their investigations.

The AGO legally has two weeks to study the police findings before deciding if Mr Basuki - better known as Ahok - should answer the charges in court, but General Tito expects a decision sooner. "We had coordination meetings with the prosecutors, so, God willing, by today or tomorrow, the prosecution will declare... that the case dossier is complete," he said.

According to the police, the 826-page case dossier contains interviews that investigators conducted with Mr Basuki over two extended sittings, as well as with some 40 other witnesses, including experts in linguistics, religion and criminal law.

Mr Noor Rachmad, Deputy Attorney-General for Crimes, said his unit will decide if there is a legal case to pursue against Mr Basuki. "I cannot say how many days it will take exactly, but we will do it as soon as possible," he said when asked last Friday.

If found guilty of blasphemy, Mr Basuki can be jailed for a maximum of five years.

QUICK DECISION

We had coordination meetings with the prosecutors, so, God willing, by today or tomorrow, the prosecution will declare... that the case dossier is complete.

NATIONAL POLICE CHIEF TITO KARNAVIAN, on the Attorney-General's Office studying the police findings before deciding if Jakarta gubernatorial candidate Basuki Tjahaja Purnama should answer his charges in court.

The 50-year-old is seeking to be re-elected as Jakarta governor in February next year. He and his running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat are backed by the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) as well as a strong coalition of political parties, including Golkar, Indonesia's second- largest party after PDI-P.

They are up against the Gerindra Party pair of former education minister Anies Baswedan and businessman Sandiaga Uno, as well as former military officer Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono - son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono - and veteran bureaucrat Sylviana Murni.

Mr Basuki was a shoo-in for re-election until 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.

He has since apologised for his remarks, but that did not stop some Muslim groups, as well as the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), from staging a large- scale protest to call for his arrest earlier this month, following a smaller street march last month.

Despite the ongoing probe against Mr Basuki, a third rally is being planned by the FPIfor Friday morning at the National Monument in Jakarta.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2016, with the headline 'Jakarta governor's blasphemy case now with A-G'. Print Edition | Subscribe