Posted by News Express | 13 December 2016 | 1,826 times
Embattled Indonesian Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama alias Ahok.
There were emotional scenes in court on the first day of the blasphemy trial of Jakarta’s governor, a Christian of Chinese descent.
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, cried as he denied allegations he insulted Islam.
Mr Purnama is the first non-Muslim governor of Indonesia’s capital in 50 years.
The case is being seen as a test of religious tolerance in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.
The prosecution said Mr Purnama insulted Islam by misusing a Koranic verse which suggests Muslims should not be ruled by non-Muslims, to boost public support ahead of February’s governorship election.
He insisted his comments were aimed at politicians “incorrectly” using a Koranic verse against him, not at the verse itself.
If convicted, he faces a maximum five-year jail sentence. After the short hearing, the trial was adjourned until 20 December.
Rights groups say the authorities have set a dangerous precedent in which a noisy hardline Islamic minority can influence the legal process, says the BBC’s Rebecca Henschke in Jakarta.
In the streets outside court, hundreds of demonstrators, mostly men, gathered to protest. “Jail Governor Ahok now”, they chanted. They punched their fists in the air and shouted: “We must defend Islam from those who insult the holy book”.
It was a much smaller crowd than the huge demonstrations in Jakarta in recent weeks, but the anger remained the same. From a lorry, Islamic hard-line leaders made provocative speeches calling the governor a pig, and the crowd laughed when they mocked his Chinese appearance. One speaker turned to police officers standing guard and warned them that if Governor Ahok were not jailed, they would take matters into their own hands.
A smaller group of Ahok supporters were also there, dressed in his signature colourful shirts. Dertha Djawa Digigy, a Christian from eastern Indonesia, said she saw the trial as an attack against all Christians and believed the country's founding principles of unity and diversity were being tested. (BBC)