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Indonesia: Journalists Barred from Ahok Blasphemy Trial

Rina Chadijah
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FPI official Novel Chaidir Hasan Bamukmin speaks to reporters after testifying in the blasphemy trial of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, Jan. 3, 2017.
FPI official Novel Chaidir Hasan Bamukmin speaks to reporters after testifying in the blasphemy trial of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, Jan. 3, 2017.
Rina Chadijah/BenarNews

Indonesian police barred journalists from the courtroom on the fourth day of Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama’s blasphemy trial on Tuesday.

Police ordered all journalists out after some broadcast journalists pushed into the auditorium, despite warnings from the judge against airing witness testimony live, according to BeritaSatu.

“The hearing of witnesses testimonies cannot be aired to prevent them from listening to each other’s information. Therefore, they will only convey what they know before the judges, not opinion,” The Jakarta Post quoted North Jakarta District Court spokesman Didik Wuryanto as saying.

Tuesday’s session took place in an auditorium of the Agriculture Ministry in South Jakarta, where it had been moved for “security reasons.”

Some 2,500 security personnel kept watch outside the building over protests and speeches by detractors and supporters of the governor who is running for re-election in February.

The marathon session – starting at 9 a.m. and ending well after dark – featured testimony from five prosecution witnesses in support of allegations that Ahok insulted Islam by citing a verse from the Quran during campaigning. Ahok is an ethnic Chinese Christian.

“In front of the judges I delivered data that Ahok has attacked Islam. In fact, Ahok has quoted Surah Al-Maidah repeatedly, not just once,” Novel Chaidir Hasan Bamukmin, a top official of the Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI), told reporters outside the courthouse.

Ahok has said he never intended to offend Muslims during a speech in the Thousand Islands regency near Jakarta on Sept. 27 in which he cited the Surah Al-Maida Verse 51 from the Quran.

Some interpret the passage as barring Muslims from having non-Muslim leaders.

A press statement released by Ahok’s lawyers claimed that Novel had expressed personal dislike of Ahok prior to the Sept. 27 speech. They cited his speech at a Sept. 2 event, “Jakarta Without Ahok,” in which he called the governor “dirty” and “haram.”

During a break in the hearing, Sirra Prayuna, one of Ahok’s lawyers, said the legal team had been probing the political affiliations of the witnesses and whether they had heard the allegedly blasphemy firsthand.

“The affiliations of the witnesses, and what they know, or experienced, or heard for themselves – this is the focus of our questions in court,” he said.

Novel said he had no political affiliation but another witness, Gus Joy Setiawan, acknowledged that he is a supporter of one of Ahok’s rivals in the Feb. 15 vote.

Police also limited the number of spectators at the hearing to 100, and provided special passes to those permitted to enter.

According to Agence France-Presse, which evidently had a reporter in the room, Ahok shouted at one of the witnesses, FPI Imam Habib Muchsin, when he said he had reported the Jakarta leader to the police for insulting the Quran.

“Who has given FPI the authority to speak on behalf of all Muslims?...  Many Muslims don’t like FPI,” Ahok reportedly said in a burst of anger.

The trial, which began Dec. 13, is set to last several more weeks.

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