No one objected to Ahok's speech, say witnesses

Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, gesturing inside the courtroom during his blasphemy trial at the auditorium of the Agriculture Ministry in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Jan 3, 2017.
Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, gesturing inside the courtroom during his blasphemy trial at the auditorium of the Agriculture Ministry in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Jan 3, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

Two fishermen who were at an event where Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama allegedly made blasphemous remarks said in court yesterday that those present did not react badly to the governor's speech.

Mr Sahbudin, one of two witnesses who testified for the prosecution yesterday, added that most residents had also stayed on after the event to take pictures with Mr Basuki.

Another witness, Mr Jaenudin, gave a similar testimony, saying: "No one objected or protested during or after the speech."

But the two men said they were offended after watching a video clip of Mr Basuki citing the Quran in the same speech.

The governor, who is seeking a fresh term in gubernatorial elections next Wednesday, is on trial for blasphemy after he apparently made an inappropriate reference to a Quranic verse at an event in Pramuka Island, a fishing village in the Thousand Islands regency, last September.

The trial has been ongoing since December.

 
 

"I have not completed reading the Quran, but I feel offended after hearing that he quoted it," said Mr Jaenudin. "He mentioned Al-Maidah, so he must apologise."

Mr Basuki, better known as Ahok, was favoured to win in the polls until a video clip of him citing a verse from Al-Maidah, to urge constituents not to be deceived by his political opponents, surfaced online.

Yesterday, defence lawyers of the Chinese-Christian politician said that the police have not received any reports from Thousand Islands residents accusing Mr Basuki of insulting Islam.

"Not a single resident from the Thousand Islands region filed a complaint; they see no problem," said defence lawyer Humphrey Djemat.

The Thousand Islands district, north of the Jakarta city centre and off the main Java island, consists of about 100 islands, of which 11 are inhabited. Several of the islands are frequented by travellers seeking to swim or snorkel.

More than 41 million Indonesians across the country will head to the polls next week to elect their local leaders, with seven million voters casting their ballots in Jakarta.

Latest snap polls show Mr Basuki and his running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayatmaintaining a slim lead.

A trial verdict is expected weeks after the Feb 15 Jakarta governor election. More than 10 witnesses have been heard and several more have been lined up.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2017, with the headline 'No one objected to Ahok's speech, say witnesses'. Print Edition | Subscribe