12/13/2016, 09.53
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Jakarta, blasphemy trial against Christian governor opens

by Mathias Hariyadi

The Jakarta Court North, dismissed the charge against Ahok of insulting Islam during a rally. Thousands of onlookers flocked to the event. The defense claims that the governor had lashed out at Muslim politicians who wanted to hinder his re-election as governor, but his words were manipulated.


Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The first day of the trial for blasphemy that involves the Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama known as "Ahok" was held today. The Court of North Jakarta is hearing proceedings against the politician, a ethnic Chinese Christian, on charges of insulting the Koran and the Islamic faith.

During a rally held last September he allegedly quoted the 51st Surah Al Maidah (fifth chapter of the Koran), advising Muslims not to vote for a leader of a different faith, asking the Islamic faithful not "use" in the wrong way.

Through tears, Ahok explained that he had never meant to offend Islam and that his words were addressed to politicians who manipulate the Koran to prevent him being re-elected as governor in the elections of February 2017.

The defendant requested a video be shown portraying Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid (president of Indonesia from 1999 to 2001) while commenting a distribution of flyers that invite not to vote a political non-Muslim. The request was rejected by the judges and prosecution because "this will be done during the next hearing, when new forensic evidence will come to light."

Today’s hearing was attended by thousands of spectators, curious to see the first chapter of a process that has resonance across the nation. Since the end of September, the words of the governor have generated protests by Islamists, moderates and radicals.

On November 4, nearly 100 thousand people took to the streets to demand the condemnation of Ahok and the withdrawal of his candidacy for governor. The protest, which resulted in violence, suffered the infiltration of political agitators with the aim of discrediting President Joko Widodo, an ally of the governor.

This generated the response of moderate movements, which marched in Jakarta November 30 defending Indonesia's values, of tolerance and unity in diversity.

Later it was discovered that Buni Yani, a former journalist and professor of communication at the London School of Central Jakarta, manipulated the words spoken by Ahok in the rally, making them offensive to Islam and sparking protests. Yani has been arrested and will go to trial.

Ahok is one of the few Indonesian political leaders to fight for freedom of conscience. Last June he opposed the obligation imposed on students from Jakarta to wear the Islamic veil. In July 2015, the governor of Jakarta promoted a fight for civil rights of the Ahmadi minority, considered heretical by the majority Sunni Muslims.

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