Jakarta governor to be investigated in blasphemy case

Thousands took to the streets of Indonesia’s capital earlier this month to protest statements made by its Christian governor allegedly referencing the Quran.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the governor of Jakarta, could be jailed for up to five years if found guilty under Indonesia's blasphemy laws.

Updated Nov 18, 2016

Jakarta's governor was formally named in a blasphemy investigation on Wednesday.

The investigation comes after remarks made by the capital city’s Christian governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, during a speech in September allegedly misrepresented the Quran. His alleged comments prompted violent protests by a controversial Muslim group in the Indonesian capital. 

Ari Dono Sukmanto, chief of the National Police criminal investigation department, told reporters that "the dominant opinion is that this case should be settled in court."

The blasphemy allegations centre on a speech Purnama made in September in which he said his opponents had deceived voters by attacking him using a verse from the Koran.

Protests rocked the streets of Jakarta as 100,000 people demanded that Purnama be prosecuted for allegedly blasphemous remarks. (Reuters)

Purnama has denied blasphemy but apologised for the comments. Some of the Muslim groups in the country have demanded that he resign, claiming that he insulted Islam's holy book.

More than 100,000 Muslims marched against him earlier this month, urging voters not to re-elect him in February and demanding that Purnama be prosecuted. The demonstration later turned violent. The protests were led by Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).

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.

Protests urging the public not to vote for Purnama, who is up for re-election in February, later turned violent. (Reuters)

Support for Purnama, a Protestant once hugely popular for his tough, reformist approach to running the city of 10 million people, has plummeted during the controversy, according to an opinion poll published last week.

Indonesia recognises six religions and is home to several minority groups that adhere to traditional beliefs.

TRTWorld and agencies