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Indonesia: Court Rejects Jakarta Governor’s Motion to Halt Blasphemy Trial

Rina Chadijah
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Jakarta Gov. Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama speaks with his lawyers during his blasphemy trial at the North Jakarta District Court, Dec. 27, 2016.

An Indonesian court Tuesday rejected a motion filed by lawyers for Jakarta Gov. Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama and ordered that his blasphemy trial over alleged anti-Islam comments go on.

The motion was the last legal opportunity to stop the trial of the governor, a member of Indonesia’s Christian and ethnic Chinese minorities who is running for election in February.

The allegations against Ahok have grabbed national headlines before and since his trial opened on Dec. 13. They have led to mass street protests by Muslim groups that have called for his prosecution, including one on Nov. 4 that ended in rioting and looting in central Jakarta.

“The objection of the defendant Basuki Tjahaja Purnama and his lawyers cannot be accepted,” presiding Judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarso said Tuesday in the courtroom of the North Jakarta District Court.

The judge also agreed with the prosecutor and rejected a claim by Ahok’s lawyers that pressure from the Muslim community was responsible for bringing the case to trial.

Ahok, when asked if would accept or appeal the ruling, consulted with his lawyer and said, “We will take it into consideration.”

Ahok’s lawyer, Sirra Prayuna, said the court’s rejection was normal in such a case.

“We have set up five to seven fact and expert witnesses who will testify during the trial, he said.

When the trial opened two weeks ago, Ahok testified that he never intended to offend Muslims during a speech in the Thousand Islands regency near Jakarta on Sept. 27, when he cited Surah Al-Maida Verse 51 from the Quran. Some have interpreted the passage as barring Muslims from having non-Muslim leaders.

The next court hearing is scheduled for Jan. 3. For security reasons, it will be moved to an auditorium in the Ministry of Agriculture, a larger room that can accommodate more than 80 people.

Catholic complaint

Meanwhile, the Jakarta Police Department has received a report of alleged blasphemy by Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Muhammad Rizieq Shihab, whose group has been among the most vocal calling for Ahok’s prosecution.

The Catholic Students Association of the Republic of Indonesia (PMKRI) reported the hardline cleric to the police on Monday for a sermon he gave at a mosque in Pondok Kelapa, East Jakarta, on Christmas Day.

“We feel humiliated, feel offended by the speech of hate delivered by Habib Rizieq Shihab,” association leader Angelius Wake Kako told reporters.

In his talk, the FPI chief allegedly questioned Christian beliefs that Jesus Christ was the Son of God.

“He said ‘if God could give birth, who was the midwife.’ And we learned many of the congregation were laughing at what Rizieq said,” Angelius said.

A spokesman for Jakarta police, Raden Prabowo Argo Yuwono, confirmed that officers were investigating the complaint against Rizieq.

Argo told BenarNews that police needed time to study the report, and would contact Rizieq if there was sufficient evidence against him.

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