A panel of judges rejected a bid by lawyers defending the first Christian governor of Jakarta, the capital of the world's largest Muslim-majority nation.

 If convicted, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama could face a possible five-year jail term.
If convicted, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama could face a possible five-year jail term.

An Indonesian court ruled on Tuesday it will proceed with a blasphemy trial against Jakarta's governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is accused of making blasphemous comments against Islam.

Purnama, the first Christian to govern Indonesia's capital, is accused of making insulting remarks about the Islamic holy book, the Quran. If convicted, he could face a possible five-year jail term. The case is being seen as a test of religious freedom in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation.

A panel of judges on Tuesday rejected a call by lawyers defending governor Purnama to strike down the case because it had violated the ethnic Chinese politician's human rights.

"The exception by the defendant will be considered and decided by the court after examination of all evidence. The defendant's exception is not accepted," said Judge Abdul Rosyad.

Purnama denied at his first hearing on December 13 that he had intended to insult the Quran while he was campaigning for re-election ahead of February polls.

He said his comments were aimed at rival politicians who, according to him, were trying to get an unfair advantage by using a Quranic verse to convince voters not to support a non-Muslim.

Purnama apologised for his remarks, which angered Muslims across Indonesia.

Charges like blasphemy in Indonesia nearly always result in conviction.

Amnesty International has criticised the law for "hurting freedom of expression and for targeting religious minorities."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies