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Indonesian Court to Proceed With Blasphemy Trial Against Jakarta Governor

  • VOA News

FILE - Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as "Ahok", sits on the defendant's chair during his trial at the North Jakarta District Court in Jakarta, Indonesia.

An Indonesian court ruled Tuesday it will move forward with a controversial blasphemy trial against the Christian governor of the capital city of Jakarta, a case viewed by many as a test of religious freedom in the Muslim-majority country.

Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known by his nickname Ahok, has been charged with maligning Islam and defiling the Koran by reciting one of its verses in an attempt to win re-election. Purnama is trying to win a second term as governor in elections scheduled for February.

A five-judge panel overruled arguments from Purnama's attorneys that the indictment should be annulled because it contained inaccuracies. Hearings will resume next Tuesday.

Purnama said in his defense plea that his remarks were not an interpretation of the Koran and were simply references to politicians "who exploited the verses incorrectly because they do not want to compete fairly in an election."

The governor was named a suspect after hundreds of thousands of people attended rallies in recent months demanding his arrest.

Purnama, an ally of President Joko Widodo, could be sentenced to up to five years in prison if he is convicted. Blasphemy convictions in Indonesia almost always result in conviction.

He is the first Christian governor of Jakarta in more than 50 years.

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