In­done­sian gover­nor to face blas­phemy charges

The Myanmar Times - - World -

JAKARTA’S Christian gover­nor was for­mally named a sus­pect in a blas­phemy in­ves­ti­ga­tion yes­ter­day, af­ter al­le­ga­tions that he in­sulted Is­lam sparked a vi­o­lent mass protest by Mus­lim hard­lin­ers in the In­done­sian cap­i­tal.

Af­ter a lengthy pre­lim­i­nary probe, po­lice said that the al­le­ga­tions against Ba­suki Tja­haja Pur­nama, who is also a mem­ber of In­done­sia’s eth­nic Chi­nese mi­nor­ity, should go to trial and or­dered him not to leave the coun­try.

The case is be­ing viewed as a test of re­li­gious tol­er­ance in the world’s most pop­u­lous Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­try, where a spike in at­tacks on mi­nori­ties has eroded a rep­u­ta­tion for plu­ral­ism, and an­a­lysts said the de­ci­sion was a “set­back”.

Re­li­gious groups had de­manded that Mr Pur­nama, known by his nick­name Ahok, be pros­e­cuted for al­legedly in­sult­ing the Ko­ran while cam­paign­ing in elec­tions for the Jakarta gov­er­nor­ship.

The gover­nor – who is favourite to win the polls – had ac­cused his op­po­nents of us­ing a Ko­ranic verse, which sug­gests Mus­lims should not choose non-Mus­lims as lead­ers, in or­der to trick peo­ple into vot­ing against him.

The blas­phemy al­le­ga­tions sparked much anger among Mus­lims – both mod­er­ate and hard­line – and more than 100,000 pro­test­ers took to the streets in Jakarta on Novem­ber 4 de­mand­ing that Mr Pur­nama be pros­e­cuted, with the protest turn­ing vi­o­lent.

Af­ter a weeks-long in­ves­ti­ga­tion that in­volved ques­tion­ing scores of wit­nesses, na­tional po­lice chief de­tec­tive Ari Dono told re­porters, “Ba­suki Tja­haja Pur­nama has been named a sus­pect.”

Na­tional po­lice chief Tito Kar­na­vian con­ceded there were “sharply dis­sent­ing opin­ions” and the de­ci­sion was not unan­i­mous.

How­ever, in­ves­ti­ga­tors even­tu­ally agreed a crime had been com­mit­ted and the case should go to trial, he said yes­ter­day.

Nam­ing some­one a sus­pect is a for­mal step in the In­done­sian le­gal sys­tem that means au­thor­i­ties be­lieve they have enough pre­lim­i­nary ev­i­dence to con­sider fil­ing charges against some­one.

Com­ment­ing af­ter the de­ci­sion, Mr Pur­nama pledged not to pull out of the Jakarta elec­tion in Fe­bru­ary, telling re­porters, “This is not the end. There will be a court process which we hope will be open.

“We will still take part in the elec­tion – our sup­port­ers who back us should still come to polling booths to help us win.”

Ob­servers ex­pressed sur­prise at the de­ci­sion: Po­lice had been widely ex­pected not to pur­sue the case as the ev­i­dence was viewed as weak. They said it could be a com­pro­mise aimed at avoid­ing fur­ther protests.

The protest ear­lier this month, the biggest in re­cent years, descended into chaos, with pro­test­ers torch­ing po­lice cars and hurl­ing rocks in the heart of Jakarta.

Scores of po­lice of­fi­cers were in­jured and one man died in the clashes close to the pres­i­den­tial palace. –

Jakarta’s Gover­nor Ba­suki Tja­haja Pur­nama (cen­tre), who is a mem­ber of In­done­sia’s eth­nic Chi­nese mi­nor­ity, speaks to party of­fi­cials while cam­paign­ing for the next round of lo­cal elec­tions in Jakarta yes­ter­day.

Photo: AFP

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