Indonesia's postponed trial for blasphemy begins
Jakarta's governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, cried in court on the first day of his blasphemy trial. The case against the first non-Muslim governor of Indonesia is being perceived as a test of tolerance in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation. If convicted for blasphemy charges which he denies, Ahok will face a five-year jail sentence.
About Basuki Tjahaja Purnama
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama of Chinese descent, nicknamed 'Ahok', was Jakarta's Deputy Governor. Purnama replaced Joko Widodo as Jakarta's Governor when Widodo became Indonesia's President in 2014. However, the Islamic Defenders Front didn't want him to succeed Widodo as a Christian shouldn't govern a Muslim-majority city and protested against the appointment. Considered politically independent, Purnama fought against corruption, improved public transport, and other public services.
Allegations of blasphemy against Ahok
Thousands of Muslims staged a massive protest in Jakarta demanding police apprehend Purnama for blaspheming the Quran. The protest was in response to a video in which Ahok was delivering a speech and allegedly misused Surat Al-Ma'ida verse 51, during campaigning for the 2017 Governorship Election in Sep'16. On 16 Nov he was named a suspect of blaspheming the Quran by the Indonesian law.
Purnama repeatedly denied blasphemy
Islamic groups alleged Purnama criticized the Quran and complained to police after which investigation began; but he repeatedly apologized and denied blasphemy. His supporters said the widely-circulated video was edited and subtitled to make it appear he was insulting Islam.
Six religions recognized in Indonesia
Indonesia's constitution guarantees freedom of religion although only six religions are recognized and has strict penalties for blasphemy against any one of them. However, observers say that the laws are used against minorities; atheists also have been prosecuted in the past. One atheist had been sentenced to two-and-half years in prison in 2012 for posting that God doesn't exist on Facebook.
President Widodo blames "political actors"
President Widodo has blamed "political actors" for taking advantage of the outbreak of public anger. The blasphemy case benefitted Purnama's rivals in the Governorship Election race where he was considered a front-runner. Observers feel the case shows Indonesia is becoming more radical; it was historically a moderate Muslim country. However, Indonesia's largest Islamic group, Nahdlatul Ulama, asked its supporters not to protest against Ahok.
Jakarta Governor Purnama denies allegations during blasphemy trial
Jakarta's Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama alias Ahok cried denying allegations he insulted Islam, on the first day of the blasphemy trial. He said his comments were aimed at some politicians "incorrectly" using a Koranic verse against him and not the verse. He is Jakarta's first non-Muslim Governor in 50 years. The case tests the religious tolerance in the largest Muslim-majority country in the world.
Christians represent less than 10% of Indonesia's population
A wave of anti-Chinese sentiment in 1998 led to mobs burning and looting Chinese-owned houses and shops leaving over 1,000 people dead. Christians represent less than 10% of Indonesia's 250 million people.
The trial adjourned until 20 December
Purnama allegedly insulted Islam and misused a Koranic verse suggesting Muslims shouldn't be ruled by non-Muslims to boost public support ahead of the governorship election in Feb'17. He would face a maximum five-year sentence if convicted; the trial was adjourned until 20 December. Rights groups said the authorities set a "dangerous precedent in which a noisy hardline Islamic minority can influence the legal process."