Jakarta. Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama faced another problem after he and his lawyers objected to testimony by Ma'ruf Amin, chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council, or MUI, during his blasphemy trial in South Jakarta on Tuesday (31/01).
Ahok's objection was interpreted by the Nahdlatul Ulama as an insult against their spiritual leader.
During the eighth session of Ahok's blasphemy trial, Ma'ruf made statements contradicting information the incumbent governor's lawyers have in their possession. He also tried to hide his personal background as a member of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's advisory council, or Wantimpres.
Ma'ruf had listed his entire occupational history in the police investigation report, but only omitted that particular part.
The governor also accused Ma'ruf of not being objective in his testimony, because he reportedly supports the former president's son Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono and his running mate Sylviana Murni in this month's Jakarta gubernatorial election.
Ahok added that his legal team had obtained evidence of a requested meeting between Ma'ruf, Agus and Sylviana, although the cleric denied it.
"In closing, if you victimize me, you will go against the almighty God. I will prove it one by one. Thank you," Ahok said after he raised his objection to the court.
He also objected to the appointment of firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab, the leader of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), as an expert witness to guard the MUI's edict.
Rizieq is considered unfit to be a witness because he has expressed a strong dislike for Ahok after the latter replaced current President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo as Jakarta governor.
"I object to the decision to appoint Rizieq as [an expert] witness. Since the time I was confirmed as governor, he has refused to accept it and instead named a competing governor," Ahok said.
He also rejected testimony claiming that residents of Jakarta's Thousand Islands district did not welcome his presence there.
"I went to the Thousand Islands and they [the locals] were happily laughing [with me]. I went to six islands recently and they all received me well," Ahok added.
Yudhoyono Phone Call
Ahok's lawyer, Humphrey Djemat, meanwhile asked Ma'ruf whether he had met with Agus and Sylviana.
Ma'ruf confirmed that he did indeed have a meeting with them during a visit to the offices of the NU's Central Leadership Board (PBNU), but claimed that it took place before the blasphemy case.
"[The meeting with Agus-Sylviana] took place before the Thousand Islands incident," Ma'ruf said, adding that he did not invite them to the PBNU office.
Humphrey then grilled Ma'ruf after producing evidence that he did in fact meet the pair on Oct. 7 last year. He then proceeded to ask whether Ma'ruf had received a phone call from former President Yudhoyono.
"Was there a phone call from SBY that requested an arrangement for Agus and Sylviana to visit the PBNU? Secondly, did SBY ask for an edict to be issued based on the blasphemy allegations?" Humphrey asked, referring to the former president by his initials.
"None of those," Ma'ruf replied.
"Since the witness says 'none of those,' we request permission to show the evidence to the judges," the lawyer said.
Humphrey showed the evidence to the panel of judges, with Ma'ruf observing it at the judges' seats.
After seeing the evidence, Ma'ruf claimed that he had forgotten the dates, as the meeting in the PBNU office occurred after the blasphemy case was initiated.
"Oh, it was after the Thousand Islands [incident]; I was mistaken. It means before the issuance of the edict. I forgot the date, I forgot," Ma'ruf said.
However, he did not respond to the question about Yudhoyono's phone call.
After the trial, rumors emerged that Ahok's camp was planning to report Ma'ruf to the police over his testimony. However, Yenny Wahid, daughter of former President Abdurrahman Wahid – popularly known as Gus Dur – urged Ahok not to proceed.
"We understand that filing a report is the right of every citizen. But in this case, and due to the current divisive situation on the grassroots level, it would be wiser if Ahok chooses a dialogic approach to solving the matter," Yenny said.
She also urged Indonesians, especially followers of the NU, to remain calm and prioritize tabayyun, or a crystal-clear clarification, whenever they are faced with problems that could draw the ire of people or create conflict.
Ahok's campaign secretary, Ace Hasan Syadzily, eventually refuted the rumors by saying that there had been no plan to report Ma'ruf.
"The rumors are not true. Ahok and his lawyers will only report witnesses who give false testimony, and not in Ma'ruf Amin's case," Ace said.
He added that Ahok's political opponents are using the trial to damage his chances in the election.
"Let the process [trial] proceed the way it is supposed to; everyone should respect that," Ace said.
Ahok also apologized for his earlier statement against Ma'ruf in court.
"I acknowledge him as an NU elder and I respect him a lot, like I respect other NU figures such as Gus Dur and Gus Mus [Mustofa Bisri]," Ahok said. He added that he hopes the matter would be cleared up soon.