World

Indonesia court to proceed with blasphemy trial of Ahok

Judge says evidence of impact of Jakarta Governor's alleged blasphemy not needed for him to be charged

JAKARTA: An Indonesian court ruled yesterday that it will proceed with the blasphemy trial against Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known by his nickname Ahok, agreeing with prosecutors that the charges are in line with the law.

Presiding judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto said evidence of the impact of Basuki's alleged blasphemy is not needed for the prosecutors to charge the governor with the offence, which carries a maximum jail term of five years upon conviction.

FORMALITY

He added: "This is not a verdict to rule whether the defendant is guilty or not. Today we only decided on the formality, not the substance, of the case."

The next hearing is set for Jan 3. The court's provisional ruling means it will start inviting the witnesses and experts proposed by both prosecution and defence to testify in the next couple of hearings, before the judges issue a verdict.

The security at the court was tight asBasuki, 50, took the stand yesterday and said he had no intention of insulting Islam.

Basuki, an ethnic Chinese Christian, is accused of insulting Muslims by claiming during an election rally that his political opponents were using the Quran to sway voters against him.

His lawyers had said the indictment was legally flawed, arguing the prosecutors should have presented evidence to show Basuki's actions had caused damage.

"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 used the Al-Maidah verse incorrectly because they did not want to compete fairly in the election," Basuki said in his first appearance in court on Dec 13.

Basuki had said he contributed to the Muslim community, such as supporting programmes to build mosques.

He said he has many Muslim friends and his adoptive parents are pious Muslims. His adoptive Muslim brother even paid for his college education.

Basuki had apologised for his remarks, but police went ahead with investigations in a bid to defuse tensions amid massive street protests led by Muslim hardliners against him.

The governor is running for a second term in the gubernatorial election on Feb 15 in a three-corner contest.

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