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Jakarta Governor Ahok Returns to Court for Blasphemy Trial, Accused of Causing ‘Disunity Among Muslims’

After an emotional appearance on the first day of trial for blasphemy charges last week, Jakarta’s controversial Christian governor Ahok went back to court Tuesday.
Jakarta's Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama alias Ahok (C) is escorted byanti-terror policemen as he leaves the North Jakarta court in Jakarta on December 20, 2016.

Reuters/Adek Berry

After an emotional appearance on the first day of trial for blasphemy charges last week, Jakarta’s controversial Christian governor Ahok went back to court Tuesday.

The camp of Ahok, or Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, previously filed an objection against the blasphemy charges, but prosecutors argued that the objection was “not based on the law” and should be struck down.

"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.

Prosecutors also said the governor was being “self-righteous” by saying he did not intend to insult Islam with his comments in which he allegedly quoted the Quran. The governor’s words also resulted in “disunity among Muslims,” the prosectors claimed.

Protesters demanding Ahok’s arrest gathered outside the courtroom.

"We want the judges to arrest Ahok because he is already a suspect and the police and attorney general are not bold enough to arrest him," one protester said.

Opposite them, separated by police and military personnel who were deployed in the area to avoid eruption of violence, was another group that supported the governor. They carried banners saying “We are Muslims that forgive Ahok.”

"Ahok is not guilty. What he did was not blasphemy,” one of them said. “Ahok has apologized many times and, as Muslims, we should forgive him."

The Jakarta governor, who assumed the position when Joko Widodo won the presidency, was the leading contender for the gubernatorial post in next year’s election. Although he came from the minority Chinese background, he consistently topped the polls, owing mostly to his firm resolve to clean up the city.

Ahok is Jakarta’s first Christian governor in 50 years. Hardline Muslims campaigned against him, saying the Quran forbids voting for a non-Muslim leader.

In a speech before fishermen, Ahok encouraged the crowd to not believe what his opponents were saying but to vote according to their conscience.

He allegedly quoted a verse from the Quran. A man named Buni Yani uploaded an edited video of Ahok. Critics said the video was meant to incite the Muslims against the Jakarta governor. The video went viral and triggered the massive protests against Ahok last month and early this month.

On the first day of the trial last week, Ahok gave an emotional testimony about how he never meant to offend the Muslims. His adoptive parents, whom he loved, were Muslims, he said.

"My father and my adoptive father, vowed to be brothers until the end. The love of my adoptive parents for me, has inspired me to this day," he said.

Ahok’s case is considered to be a litmus test for religious tolerance in Indonesia. Analysts say he would most likely be convicted, as most blasphemy cases in the country result in convictions.

Others believe the hardline Muslims could stage violent protests if Ahok does not get convicted.

The governor’s supporters are urging authorities to not give in to pressure and give Ahok a just and fair trial.

The trial will resume on Dec. 27, and the judges are expected by then to decide if the trial will continue or not.

Franklin Graham, CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, urged Christians to pray for the Jakarta governor.

“We need to pray for the Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama, who is on trial for what the Muslim’s are calling blasphemy, which is ridiculous,” Graham said on a post to Facebook. “He’s the first non-Muslim governor of the Indonesian capital in more than half a century. They’re coming after him because he’s a Christian.”

“Hard line Muslim groups have organized protests against him and some have even called for him to be lynched. This is the kind of persecution that is going on around the world in countries that are controlled by Islam. Pray for this man and his family,” he added.

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