At his blasphemy trial yesterday, January 3, Jakarta Governor Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama slammed at a leader of the activist Islamic Defender Front (FPI) who was testifying against him.
Crowds of Governor Ahok’s supporters and opponents exchanged insults as they staged protests outside the hearing venue, where thousands of police were deployed to ensure that the clashing pressure between both parties is safely contained.
The blasphemy trial, which was originally held at a Jakarta court, was moved to an auditorium of the country’s Ministry of Agriculture for security reasons.
Of Chinese and Christian descent, Ahok is on trial for blasphemy for allegedly misquoting the Koran in one of his political speeches during a campaign visit at the Thousand Island.
Hundreds of thousands of Muslims and hardline activists have held rallies against the incumbent gubernatorial candidate in the last few months in what has been recorded as the biggest demonstrations in Indonesia in many years.
Ahok has apologized for the ruckus his speech has caused but has repeatedly denied the allegations of his intent to insult Islam with it, explaining the case is backed by his opponents’ political motives.
The blasphemy trial against the Jakarta governor started last month, and FPI members testified against him at his third hearing yesterday. The hardline FPI group has been spearheading the protest movement against the incumbent Chinese governor.
Head of FPI’s Jakarta branch Muhsin Alattas testified that he “reported the suspect [to the police] because he insulted the Koran.”
Hearing this, Ahok rebuked the witness and shouted “Who has given FPI the authority to speak on behalf of all Muslims? . . . [Many] Muslims don’t like FPI.”
Ahok has previously told reporters that his opponents are using a Koranic verse, where Muslims are advised against voting non-Muslims leaders, in order to manipulate people to vote against him.
The controversial case has triggered concerns about intolerance in the archipelago where a surge in attacks on minorities has been observed over the past few years.
Image credit: GlobalIndonesianVoices