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Court Rejects Defense Statement of Jakarta Gov. Ahok, Blasphemy Trial to Proceed

The North Jakarta District Court rejected the defense statement of Jakarta Gov. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama or Ahok when the hearing resumed on Tuesday.
Jakarta's governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama walks outside the court room shortly after his trial at the North Jakarta District Court. December 27, 2016 01:35am EST

Reuters

The North Jakarta District Court rejected the defense statement of Jakarta Gov. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama or Ahok when the hearing resumed on Tuesday.

Judge Abdul Rosyad, member of the panel of judges, explained the court will consider Ahok's statement after all evidence has been investigated.

"The exception by the defendant will be considered and decided by the court after examination of all evidence. The defendant's exception is not accepted," Judge Rosyad said.

Presiding judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto said that the arguments presented by Ahok and his attorneys are important parts of the indictment and are among those that will be weighed before the judges give a ruling. Thus, Ahok's trial will proceed, The Jakarta Post reported.

Santiarto said if the defense found the court's decision unsatisfactory, it could file an appeal at a higher court, a move that the Jakarta governor said he would consider doing.

Prosecutor Ali Mukartono was pleased with the judges' decision. He said the prosecutors will bring in five to six witnesses when the hearing resumes next year.

Ahok gave a tearful defense on Dec. 13, saying he did not intend to insult the Quran when he made reference to the Quranic verse Al Maidah 15. He said he only wanted to communicate that his political rivals are using the verse to attack him and to convince people not to vote for him.

In his refutation of the prosecutors' indictment, Ahok also said he could not insult the religion of his godparents, whom he dearly loved.

"I am very sad about being accused of insulting Islam. It is like being accused of insulting my own godparents and siblings, whom I love and who love me as well," he said.

Ahok is Jakarta's first Christian governor in 50 years. Before the controversies surrounding the alleged blasphemy surfaced, he led the polls for the 2017 gubernatorial election.

However, Muslim hardliners had been conducting campaigns against him and convincing fellow Muslims not to vote for him next year because he is a Christian. He was accused of insulting the Quran in a speech at the Thousand Islands in September.

News of the alleged blasphemy spread quickly, fueling the biggest protests in Jakarta last month that called for his arrest.

Ahok's case is being considered as a test of religious tolerance in Indonesia, where it is supposedly legal to practice religions other than Islam.

The governor's lead in the polls suffered temporarily because of the controversies, but as of early this month, Vox Point Indonesia reported he is once more ahead in the gubernatorial race.

According to the results of the non-commissioned survey conducted Nov. 8 to Dec. 8, 80 percent of the respondents said they would vote for Ahok, while only 12 percent said they would choose Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno and eight percent said they would choose Sylviana Murni and Agus Yudhoyono.

The polling agency claimed the issue has not damaged Ahok's reputation as much as his opponents would have liked.

Government watchdog Alliance of Civilian Community for the Constitution cried foul over Ahok's blasphemy trial, saying the governor's human rights have been violated with the lack of due process regarding his case.

The organization said the trial is being held because of pressure from the massive protests.

"Since MUI never clarified with Basuki Tjahaja Purnama before stating their opinion and assessments, there has been a 'trial in absentia' and 'trial by mob,'" AMSIK said. "It is a bad precedent over the law enforcement for future cases that have political elements."

Ahok could face up to five years in prison if convicted of blasphemy. His political career could also suffer, as the law forbids convicted persons from running for office.

Before the trial began, Ahok called on his Christian brothers and sisters to pray for him to help him "get past this trouble" so he can continue serving Jakarta.

The next hearing will be on Jan. 3. It will be held in the agriculture ministry's auditorium in South Jakarta for security purposes.

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