World

Jakarta governor's blasphemy trial delayed to after election

JAKARTA: An Indonesian court yesterday adjourned the blasphemy trial of Jakarta's Christian governor until after the city's April 19 election, a contest pitting him against a Muslim rival that has divided the city and fanned religious tension.

The trial of Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, Jakarta's first ethnic Chinese and Christian leader, has raised questions about the role of religion in politics in the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation.

Basuki has been allowed to campaign in the election despite his trial and prosecutors had been expected yesterday to call for him to be jailed on a charge of insulting Islam.

Instead, judges agreed to a request by prosecutors to postpone the hearing to April 20, a day after the election for city governor.

Police had also written to prosecutors to ask for a delay over security concerns.

"We think the police letter can be taken into consideration due to the matter of security," prosecutor Ali Mukartono told the court, referring to the timing of the next hearing.

The prosecution's main reason in asking for a delay was to have more time to prepare, he said.

City police last week called for the trial to be delayed until after the vote because of worries that religious and ethnic tensions in the city of more than 10 million people were running high.

Basuki went on trial late last year after some Muslim groups objected to comments he made about his opponents' use of the Quran in campaigning.

Despite his trial, he enjoys strong public support because of his efforts to ease Jakarta's chronic traffic congestion and flooding. - REUTERS

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