Jakarta governor's trial resumes with prosecution witnesses set to testify

Jakarta's Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (centre) speaking to his lawyers inside the courtroom during his ongoing trial at the North Jakarta District Court in Jakarta, on Dec 27, 2016.
Jakarta's Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (centre) speaking to his lawyers inside the courtroom during his ongoing trial at the North Jakarta District Court in Jakarta, on Dec 27, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - The high-profile blasphemy case against Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama resumes with the court set to hear from prosecution witnesses as the first day of the trial begins on Tuesday (Jan 3).

The six witnesses expected to testify are from the National Fatwa Guardians of the Indonesian Ulema Council (GNPF-MUI), dominated by hardline organisations including the Islamic Defenders' Front (FPI), which had led the massive rallies in Jakarta demanding that Mr Basuki be arrested and jailed.

They are Novel Chaidir Hasan, the chief of Jakarta's branch of the FPI, Gus Joy Setiawan, M. Burhanudin, Muchsin, Syamsu Hilal, and Nandi Naksabandi.

Judges from the North Jakarta district court had ruled on Dec 27 to continue proceedings, throwing out the objection submitted by Mr Basuki, better known as Ahok, and his lawyers and agreeing with prosecutors that the charges were in line with the law.

The 50-year-old, who is seeking re-election, had allegedly referred to the Quran and told residents in the Thousand Islands district in September not to be misled by his opponents who claimed that the Holy Book forbids Muslims from electing a non-Muslim leader.

 
 

Prosecutors had told the court earlier that the Chinese Christian governor had "deliberately expressed or committed an act of hostility, abuse or desecration of a religion in public". If found guilty, he could be jailed for up to five years.

The trial, which was previously held at the central Jakarta court, has been moved to the Agriculture Ministry's auditorium south of the capital as it is more secure and able to accommodate more visitors. Police say 2,500 personnel have been deployed to guard the trial.

Hundreds of Muslim conservatives as well as Ahok supporters have gathered outside the ministry.

Ahok, who arrived in court in a batik shirt, did not speak to reporters. His lawyer Sirra Prayuna said his team will assess the witnesses for neutrality.

Ahok is running for a second term in the gubernatorial election next month (February) in a three-way contest against Mr Agus Harimurti, the son of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and Mr Anies Baswedan, a former education and culture minister.

aarlina@sph.com.sg