Jakarta Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama was formally charged with blasphemy of religion in November of last year after prominent Muslim hardliners orchestrated waves of mass demonstrations in Jakarta and elsewhere throughout the archipelago, calling for his arrest. (Antara Photo/Ramdani)

Ahok Did Not Intend to Insult Islam: Witness

BY :BAYU MARHAENJATI & EKO PRASETYO

MARCH 07, 2017

Jakarta. Eko Cahyono, the deputy rector of Darma Persada University, said Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama did not intend to insult Islam during his now infamous speech to residents in the Thousand Islands district last year.

Testifying as a witness in the ongoing blasphemy trial against Ahok in the North Jakarta District Court on Tuesday (07/03), Eko said: "I believe Mr. Ahok did not intend to blaspheme religion in his speech."

He added that he has spoken with several religious figures, including the late former President Abdurrahamn Wahid, commonly referred to as Gus Dur, about the meaning of the Al-Maidah verse from the Koran, which Ahok cited in his speech.

"Gus Dur said it is all right to choose a non-Muslim leader. I know this very well... I was standing right next to him. He told [the people] to choose a clean, responsible leader and he urged the public not to hesitate in choosing Ahok," Eko said in reference to the latter's participation in the Bangka Belitung gubernatorial election in 2007.

Eko said Gus Dur explained that the Al-Maida 51 verse does not prohibit the election of non-Muslim leaders in state governments but instead warns against the influence of non-Muslim figures in the Islamic community.

Eko, who ran as Ahok's deputy in the 2007 election, said they both experienced discrimination because of Ahok's ethnicity and religious beliefs.

Before the trial session started on Tuesday, I Wayan Sidharta, one of Ahok's lawyers, explained the defense's rationale in calling several witnesses to the stand, including prominent Golkar Party politician Bambang Waluyo Djojohadikoesoemo and Analta Amier, Ahok's Muslim godbrother.

"The witnesses can clarify details about Ahok's personal life that the public may be unaware of, including how he attended school in Muslim communities or specific instances in which he helped Muslims. Mr. Analta Amier is expected to explain his willingness to aid the Muslim community," Sidharta said.

"[The witnesses] will share everything that the people of Indonesia should know about Ahok, who is being accused of blaspheming Islam. He is a person who loves to help the Muslim community by funding prayer houses and religious facilities," Sidharta added.

The trial was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on Tuesday in a makeshift courtroom at the headquarters of the Ministry of Agriculture in South Jakarta.

Ahok, a practicing Christian of Chinese descent, is facing both blasphemy and cyber-harassment charges after he said in his speech that nobody should quote from the Koran for political gain.

Ahok was formally charged with blasphemy in November of last year after prominent Muslim hardliners orchestrated waves of mass demonstrations in Jakarta and elsewhere in the archipelago to demand his arrest.

Watch Indonesia Highlights at 8 p.m. tonight on the Jakarta Globe News Channel and Facebook Live to find out more about the blasphemy trial process against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.

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