Jakarta Chris­tian gov­er­nor grilled

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The In­done­sian cap­i­tal’s Chris­tian gov­er­nor faced a marathon po­lice grilling yes­ter­day for al­legedly in­sult­ing Is­lam, af­ter the ac­cu­sa­tions sparked a vi­o­lent mass protest by hard­lin­ers in the Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­try. Fri­day’s demon­stra­tion started peace­fully but de­scended into chaos as night fell with pro­test­ers torch­ing po­lice cars and hurl­ing rocks and bot­tles in the heart of Jakarta, as they de­manded the leader be jailed for blas­phemy.

Scores of po­lice of­fi­cers were in­jured and one man died in the clashes close to the pres­i­den­tial palace, re­port­edly af­ter tear gas fired by au­thor­i­ties trig­gered an asthma at­tack. The protest in­volv­ing tens of thou­sands of hard­lin­ers was sparked by ac­cu­sa­tions gov­er­nor Ba­suki Tja­haja Pur­nama, a Chris­tian and a mem­ber of In­done­sia’s eth­nic Chi­nese mi­nor­ity, in­sulted the Ko­ran while cam­paign­ing in elec­tions for the Jakarta gov­er­nor­ship.

He said his op­po­nents were us­ing a Ko­ranic verse, which sug­gests Mus­lims should not choose non-Mus­lims as lead­ers, in or­der to trick peo­ple into vot­ing against him. Po­lice had al­ready launched the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Pur­nama, known by his nick­name Ahok, be­fore Fri­day’s protest af­ter Mus­lim groups ac­cused him of break­ing the coun­try’s tough blas­phemy laws. Yes­ter­day the gov­er­nor was ques­tioned as a wit­ness at na­tional po­lice head­quar­ters in Jakarta, emerg­ing af­ter nine hours and mak­ing his way through a me­dia scrum.

Pur­nama dodged ques­tions about the case, only telling re­porters: “I want to go home, I’m hun­gry.” Po­lice said they plan to fin­ish ques­tion­ing about 30 wit­nesses over the case this week and will de­cide next week whether any crime had been com­mit­ted. If found guilty Pur­nama-who is fa­vorite to win the Fe­bru­ary elec­tions against two Mus­lim op­po­nents-could be jailed for up to five years.

Pur­nama has apol­o­gized for his re­marks, claim­ing that he was crit­i­ciz­ing his po­lit­i­cal ri­vals who were us­ing the verse rather than the Ko­ran it­self. But this has done lit­tle to ap­pease his op­po­nents. Thou­sands of po­lice and sol­diers were de­ployed be­fore the rally in the cap­i­tal of the world’s most pop­u­lous Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity na­tion, but it still took of­fi­cers hours to quell the vi­o­lence with tear gas and wa­ter can­nons. The protest also forced Pres­i­dent Joko Wi­dodo to can­cel an of­fi­cial visit to Aus­tralia due to start at the week­end.—

Jakarta gov­er­nor Ba­suki Tja­haja Pur­nama

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