World

Ahok's supporters and rivals rally near court

JAKARTA: Prosecutors said yesterday that the blasphemy charges against Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama were in line with the law, as his supporters and opponents rallied outside the courthouse during the second hearing of the case.

The prosecutors said Mr Basuki 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," 
Mr Ali Mukartono said.

The hearing will resume on Dec 27, when judges will decide whether the blasphemy trial will proceed.

Supporters and opponents of Mr Basuki, who entered a plea of not guilty last week, rallied outside the courthouse yesterday. Police and military personnel were deployed to prevent clashes between the two groups.

"We demand justice... Don't be deceived by Ahok's tears," a speaker for the anti-Basuki group, who want him jailed, shouted from the top of a truck, referring to the governor by his popular name.

The group which supported him appealed to the judges to not yield to pressure from Muslim hardline groups.

"We came here to show that Ahok is not alone. Indonesia is for everyone... not only for one particular group," a speaker said, citing Indonesia's principle of pluralism.

Some of Mr Basuki's supporters carried banners that read: "We are Muslims that forgive Ahok."

During his blasphemy trial last Tuesday, Mr Basuki, an ethnic Chinese Christian, broke into tears as he said he had not intended to insult Islam when he commented about his election opponents' use of the Quran.

The 50-year-old had allegedly cited the Quran and told residents in a district not to be misled by his opponents, who claimed that the Holy Book forbids Muslims from electing a non-Muslim leader.

Mr Basuki said he has many Muslim friends. His adoptive parents are pious Muslims, and his adoptive Muslim brother also paid for his college education.

He said the allegations levelled against him were tantamount to saying he has insulted his adoptive parents and siblings, whom he loves and who love him.

"I had not intended to interpret Al-Maidah (Quran verse)... or insult Islam and the Muslim clerics. The remarks were meant for unscrupulous politicians, who had used the Al-Maidah verse incorrectly because they did not want to compete fairly in the election," Mr Basuki, who is running for a second term in February's poll, said last week.

His rivals are Mr Agus Harimurti, son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Mr Anies Baswedan, former education and culture minister.

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