Christian Governor of Jakarta in court to face blasphemy allegation


Jakarta’s Christian governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, was formally named a suspect in a blasphemy investigation on Wednesday Nov 16. It is alleged the he insulted Islam.

Naming someone a suspect is a formal step in the Indonesian legal system that means authorities believe they have enough preliminary evidence to consider filing charges.

Purnama, who could be jailed for up to five years if found guilty under Indonesia’s blasphemy laws, pledged not to pull out of the Jakarta election in February following the announcement.

“This is not the end, there will be a court process which we hope will be open,” he said, urging his supporters to back him in the vote.

A spokesman for President Joko Widodo, an ally of Purnama, urged all involved to respect the legal process.

Observers expressed surprise at the decision – police had been expected not to pursue the case as the evidence was viewed as weak – and said it could be a compromise to avoid further violence.

“This is a calculated move by the government and police,” Tobias Basuki, a political analyst from Jakarta-based think tank the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. However he added the decision marked a “huge setback for Indonesia”.

Tito Karnavian, the national police chief, said at a televised news conference that despite strong disagreement among investigators that the governor had violated Indonesia’s archaic blasphemy laws, the case would go to trial.

“We agreed to take the case to an open judiciary process,” he said, citing a need for transparency,” he said.


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