JAKARTA • A former Indonesian president, Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said yesterday he believed his telephone may have recently been illegally tapped by government agencies and he had sought an explanation from his successor, President Joko Widodo.
Dr Yudhoyono, who was in office from 2004 until 2014, also denied that he or any of his relatives had backed mass rallies late last year calling for the jailing of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ally of Mr Widodo, over blasphemy.
Political and religious tension has been high in the Muslim-majority country ahead of an election for Jakarta governor on Feb 15. Basuki, an ethnic Chinese Christian, is being challenged by two Muslims, one of them Dr Yudhoyono's son, Mr Agus Yudhoyono.
The elder Yudhoyono's suspicion about his telephone being tapped apparently arose during a court case this week, when a lawyer said there was evidence that Dr Yudhoyono had called a Muslim cleric to urge him to issue an edict declaring that Basuki had committed blasphemy.
Dr Yudhoyono told a news conference: "If indeed my conversations have been tapped without a legitimate reason or court order... then that is illegal wiretapping."
He added that he had sought an explanation from Mr Widodo over the suspected wiretapping. A spokesman for the president was not immediately available for comment.
Basuki is on trial for allegedly insulting the Quran while campaigning. He has denied wrongdoing.
Dr Yudhoyono yesterday denied trying to whip up street protests against Basuki.
"I was accused of funding the peaceful actions and, as a human being, of course I have to convey that none of that is true," Dr Yudhoyono said.
Police have said they are investigating possible links between Mr Agus Yudhoyono's campaign team and an alleged treason plot that led to several arrests early on Dec 2.
Later that day, a hard-line Muslim group led a big rally in Jakarta calling for Basuki to be jailed. That protest and one a few weeks earlier were the biggest Indonesia has seen in nearly 20 years and they dented Basuki's popularity.
Former president Yudhoyono has denied that he or his family had anything to do with the rallies or the alleged treason plot.
Polls show Mr Agus Yudhoyono is now neck and neck with Basuki in the race to lead the city of about 10 million.
The job of governor of the capital can lead to higher office. Mr Widodo was Jakarta governor before making his successful bid for the presidency.
In another development, Indonesia's highest Muslim clerical council said yesterday that it would issue an edict, or fatwa, declaring the spreading of fake news un-Islamic.
The edict is expected before the hotly contested Jakarta gubernatorial election.
"We will issue it as soon as possible, because the situation is worrying," said Indonesian Ulema Council chairman Ma'ruf Amin. "Hopefully, at least Muslims won't be involved anymore in hoaxes."
The council is not a government or lawmaking body and its fatwas are not legally binding.
Indonesia has one of the world's highest number of Facebook and Twitter users, and the biggest Muslim population, and concern is growing that fake news is fuelling religious and ethnic tension.