Judges rule Jakarta governor blasphemy trial closed to media
by Associated Press
posted Tuesday, 3 Jan 2017
Photo: Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as ’Ahok’ (AP)
Christian Governor Basuki ’Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama is charged with insulting Islam
An Indonesian court ruled on Tuesday that witness testimony will be closed to the media in the blasphemy trial of the capital’s minority Christian governor.
Jakarta Governor Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama is charged with insulting Islam and desecrating the Quran by using one of its verses to boost his chances of winning re-election. Ahok, 50, is seeking a second term as governor in elections due in February.
The blasphemy controversy erupted when a video circulated online in which Ahok lightheartedly said people were being deceived if they believed his detractors who asserted that the Koran prohibits Muslims from having a non-Muslim leader.
A five-judge panel ruled that journalists will not be allowed to cover witness testimony during the trial and that spectators can’t bring mobile phones inside the courtroom. Testimony began shortly after the decision was announced Tuesday.
Presiding Judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto ordered journalists to leave the packed courtroom at the North Jakarta District Court shortly after he opened the hearing.
One of Ahok’s lawyers, Trimoelja Soerjadi, said the ruling was aimed at protecting the witnesses given the huge amount of attention the trial has received in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
He said that none of the four people who reported Ahok to police and testified Tuesday directly heard what Ahok said when he visited a fishing village in northern Jakarta.
Muchsin Alatas, one of the witnesses, told reporters after testifying that Ahok was using the Koran for his political interests. “He was insulting Koran, that’s why I reported him to the police … justice must be done,” he said.
Protests against Ahok, led by conservative Muslims and which drew hundreds of thousands of people, have kept Jakarta on edge for weeks. A November 4 protest there turned violent, with one death and dozens of police and protesters injured.
The trial could take two to three months.
Supporters, protesters rally as Jakarta governor’s trial resumes
Posted 03 Jan 2017 15:35 Updated 04 Jan 2017 00:11
Ahok supporters outside the Agriculture Ministry, demanding a fair trial for the Jakarta governor. (Photo: Twitter / @SaifulCNA)
JAKARTA: Supporters of Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as Ahok, clashed briefly with protesters on Tuesday morning (Jan 3) outside the Agriculture Ministry, as the governor’s blasphemy trial resumes.
Previous sessions were held at a district court but Tuesday’s trial was moved to the Agriculture Ministry in south Jakarta for security reasons. Around 2,500 police officers were deployed in anticipation of any trouble surrounding the highly-charged trial.
Ahok’s supporters have already vowed to hold demonstrations on all the remaining days of the trial, to make their voices heard for a fair verdict.
The blasphemy trial entered the witness examination stage on Tuesday.
Ahok, Jakarta’s first non-Muslim governor in 50 years, stands accused of insulting the Quran during his re-election campaign. The offence carries a five-year jail term.
Judges had ruled last month that the blasphemy trial should proceed, rejecting a call by lawyers to strike down the case on the grounds that procedures were breached and that it violated the ethnic Chinese governor’s human rights.
The governor was named a suspect after hundreds of thousands of people, led by Muslim hardliners, attended rallies in recent months calling for his arrest.
He has maintained his innocence, saying that he never intended to offend anyone. "I know I have to respect the holy verses of the Quran. I do not understand how I can be said to have offended Islam," he said when facing the court for the first time last month.
President Joko Widodo, seen as an ally of Ahok, has blamed "political actors" for fuelling the protests, but declined to elaborate.
Jakarta governor lambasts hardliner at blasphemy trial
Tuesday January 3, 2017
06:47 PM GMT+8
Photo: Jakarta’s Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, reacts inside the courtroom during his blasphemy trial at the auditorium of the Agriculture Ministry in Jakarta January 3, 2017. — Reuters pic
JAKARTA, Jan 3 — Jakarta’s Christian governor today shouted at an Islamic hardliner testifying against him in dramatic scenes at his blasphemy trial, seen as a test of religious tolerance in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation.
Hundreds of supporters and opponents of governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama rowdily traded insults as they rallied outside the hearing in the Indonesian capital, with thousands of police deployed to prevent clashes.
The first Christian to govern the capital in more than 50 years, Purnama is on trial accused of blasphemy over remarks he made about the Quran while campaigning ahead of February elections for the Jakarta governorship.
Hundreds of thousands of conservative Muslims have protested against the leader, known by his nickname Ahok, in recent months in the largest demonstrations in Indonesia in years, but he denies insulting Islam and his supporters say the case is politically motivated.
Purnama, who faces up to five years in jail if found guilty, went on trial last month for blasphemy and at the latest hearing today members of hardline group the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) — which has spearheaded the protest movement — testified against him.
“I reported the suspect (to the police) because he insulted the Quran,” Muhsin Alattas, head of the FPI’s Jakarta branch, told the hearing.
But as the witness was questioned, Purnama — known for his short temper — began to shout at him.
“Who has given FPI the authority to speak on behalf of all Muslims?... many Muslims don’t like FPI,” he said.
“Just ask the FPI,” the witness responded during the hearing, which was taking place in an auditorium at the agriculture ministry after being moved from a Jakarta court for security reasons.
In his comments in September, Purnama accused his opponents of using a Quranic verse, which suggests Muslims should not choose non-Muslims as leaders, in order to trick people into voting against him.
The case, which is expected to take several more weeks, has sparked concerns about growing intolerance in Indonesia where a reputation for pluralism has been eroded by a surge in attacks on minorities. — AFP