Indonesia: Blasphemy trial of Jakarta governor will proceed – Court

A court in Indonesia has ruled that the trial of Jakarta’s governor on blasphemy charges will proceed, rejecting a plea by his lawyers to drop the case.

On Tuesday, the court declared that Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known by his nickname Ahok, will stand trial for comments made in September which are deemed as insulting to Islam’s holy book.

His lawyer denied the charges brought against the politician, arguing that the proceedings were being rushed and the judges were subject to public pressure.

In an attempt to strike down the case, the defense team had expressed concern that the case would undermine the politician’s rights.

But the court rejected the request. “The defendant’s exception is not accepted,” said Judge Abdul Rosyad.

The defense was told, however, that they could appeal to a higher court.

In one of the political campaigns, Ahok, a Christian, recited a verse from the Holy Qur’an, aiming to boost his chances of winning a second term as governor in elections scheduled for February 2017.

Controversy erupted after he told voters that they should not be misled by his critics who asserted Muslims were prohibited from having non-Muslim leaders.

At his first hearing on December 3, Ahok denied any intended insult to the Qur’an. In his plea, he said that his comments had been misinterpreted and that he had merely been referring to a few politicians who were trying to question his role and position.

Even though Ahok apologized to the people, his remarks angered Muslims and triggered huge protests nationwide. A protest in November turned violent, leaving one person dead and dozens more injured.

Almost all blasphemy cases in Indonesia have resulted in convictions. Ahok, who is an ally of President Joko Widodo and the first ethnic Chinese governor, faces a maximum of 5 years in prison if found guilty.

Ahok became the governor of Indoesia’s capital city in 2014.

The next court hearing is scheduled for January 3.

By Staff reporter

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