Jakarta gov­er­nor fights off blas­phemy charge

De­nies ever in­tend­ing to of­fend his Mus­lim coun­try­men

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Jakarta’s Chris­tian gov­er­nor re­turned to court yes­ter­day to fight al­le­ga­tions of in­sult­ing the Qu­ran that could see him jailed un­der tough blas­phemy laws in the world’s largest Mus­lim­ma­jor­ity coun­try. The high-pro­file case against Ba­suki Tja­haja Pur­nama-the first Chris­tian to govern the cap­i­tal in more than 50 years-has cap­ti­vated at­ten­tion in In­done­sia, and fanned con­cerns about hard­lin­ers push­ing their agenda in the na­tion of 255 mil­lion.

Pur­nama, bet­ter known by his nick­name Ahok, ig­nited a firestorm of crit­i­cism when he quoted a verse from the Is­lamic holy text in Septem­ber. The gov­er­nor apol­o­gized but his re­marks an­gered Mus­lims-both mod­er­ate and con­ser­va­tive-who marched against him in the largest ral­lies seen in In­done­sia in years. In a teary, na­tion­ally tele­vised de­fense last week, Pur­nama de­nied ever in­tend­ing to of­fend his Mus­lim coun­try­men and asked the judges to dis­miss the case. Pur­nama’s lawyers deny the charges, claim­ing pro­ceed­ings are be­ing rushed and the judges sub­ject to pub­lic pres­sure. But pros­e­cu­tors yes­ter­day ar­gued the charges were in line with the law. They claim the gov­er­nor in­sulted Mus­lims by claim­ing his po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents were us­ing the Qu­ran to sway vot­ers against him. “Based on our anal­y­sis and ju­di­cial de­scrip­tion, the en­tire ob­jec­tion filed by the ac­cused and his lawyers is not based (on) the law and have to be re­jected,” pros­e­cu­tor Ali Mukartono said.

Out­side the court­house, hun­dreds of hard­line Is­lamists chanted “God is Great” and waved ban­ners de­mand­ing Pur­nama be jailed. “We want the judges to de­cide to ar­rest Ahok be­cause he is al­ready a sus­pect and the po­lice and at­tor­ney gen­eral are not bold enough to ar­rest him,” Thir­man Elon, an anti-Pur­nama pro­tester said. Pur­nama was named a sus­pect in Novem­ber, but has not been for­mally ar­rested and is not in cus­tody. He re­mains a can­di­date for re-elec­tion in Fe­bru­ary and is still cam­paign­ing. Hun­dreds of his sup­port­ers also de­scended on the court yes­ter­day. “Ahok is not guilty. What he did was not blas­phemy. Ahok has apol­o­gized many times and as Mus­lims we should for­give him,” said Misirah, who like many In­done­sians goes by one name. Al­most all blas­phemy cases in In­done­sia have re­sulted in con­vic­tions and if found guilty, Pur­nama faces a max­i­mum five-year prison sen­tence.

The trial has been ad­journed un­til De­cem­ber 27. The laws have seen Mus­lims from sects deemed de­viant put be­hind bars, and even athe­ists have been handed jail sen­tences for fall­ing foul of the pro­vi­sions. Rights groups claim the laws are used to per­se­cute mi­nori­ties and fear the highly pub­lic case against Pur­nama is erod­ing In­done­sia’s rep­u­ta­tion for tol­er­ance and di­ver­sity. Long the favourite to win re-elec­tion in Fe­bru­ary, Pur­nama has watched his lead slip as the case against him has dragged on. He is run­ning against two Mus­lim can­di­dates for the gov­er­nor­ship of In­done­sia’s largest city.

Tourists pa­raded in ‘walk of shame’

In other news, two Aus­tralian tourists ac­cused of steal­ing a bi­cy­cle have been forced to take a “walk of shame” through an In­done­sian is­land with signs round their necks, an of­fi­cial said yes­ter­day. “I am thieve (sic). Don’t do what I did,” the signs read.

The tourists, whose iden­ti­ties were not re­vealed, al­legedly stole the bi­cy­cle about 10 days ago on Gili Trawan­gan, a pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tion in cen­tral In­done­sia. CCTV record­ings showed the two Aus­tralians tak­ing a bike from the ho­tel, said vil­lage chief Muhamad Tau­fik. The ho­tel man­ager re­ported the case to the author­i­ties who caught the pair the fol­low­ing day, Tau­fik added. “We in­ter­ro­gated them, made an agree­ment, pa­raded them around the is­land and forced them to leave Gili,”Tau­fik told AFP.

The two were the first for­eign­ers this year to un­dergo a “walk of shame” on the is­land. A few In­done­sians have been forced to take part this year in sim­i­lar pa­rades for theft. Na­tional laws are in force on the is­land but it is un­clear whether the Aus­tralians un­der­went a for­mal po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion. “The walk of shame pa­rade is a reg­u­la­tion in our vil­lage. I don’t know whether the po­lice are charging them now, what matters to me is that they’re now gone,” Tau­fik said. Such pa­rades have taken place for years on Gili Trawan­gan, a tiny is­land off the coast of Lom­bok and just east of the ma­jor re­sort is­land of Bali. — AFP

JAKARTA: Mus­lim pro­test­ers shout slo­gans as they hold up a plac­ard with a pic­ture de­pict­ing Jakarta Gov Ba­suki “Ahok” Tja­haja Pur­nama be­hind bars dur­ing a rally out­side a court where his trial hear­ing is held. — AP

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