Jakarta. Legal counsel for Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama rejected testimony by expert witnesses for the prosecution in the incumbent Jakarta governor's blasphemy trial on Tuesday (28/02).
One of Ahok's lawyers, Teguh Samudera, said the two witnesses – Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab, and criminal law expert Abdul Chair Ramadhan – are both closely involved with the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI).
Teguh said testimony by the two expert witnesses will incriminate Ahok because it was biased due to their close ties with the MUI.
The MUI issued an edict against Ahok last year over comments he made about a Koranic verse, which resulted in blasphemy charges against him.
In protest, Ahok's lawyers did not use their opportunity to question the two expert witnesses, which resulted in the 12th session of the trial ending earlier than usual.
"Firstly, expert witnesses said things related to the gubernatorial election, as well as intentional and planned issues in the case. Those were beyond the topics that should be covered by expert witnesses. Secondly, the expert witnesses both said the same things. Even since the beginning, when Basuki proposed an apology to MUI chairman Ma'ruf Amin, the [two] witnesses rejected the apology and issued a public statement to that effect. So, we thought it was not proper anymore to question those expert witnesses, due to a possible conflict of interest," Teguh said after the hearing.
State prosecutors indicated that they have presented all their witnesses, which means that Ahok's lawyers will present their witnesses during the next session of the trial.
"We will not use our right to present more [witnesses]. The principle is sufficient with what have been said in the testimonies, that we will leave it to the judges," state prosecutor Ali Murkatono said.
Presiding judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto closed the session and scheduled another for Tuesday next week at 9.00 a.m.
Ahok is back in office after his return from mandatory leave following the Jakarta gubernatorial election on Feb. 15, while Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo decided not to suspend him despite the ongoing trial.
The minister said the only time Ahok can be suspended before a verdict is reached, is if prosecutors demand a prison sentence of more than five years.
Article 83 of the 2014 Regional Government Law states that regional heads may be suspended if they have been charged with any crime that carries a prison sentence of more than five years.
However, the charges against Ahok involve less than five years' imprisonment.
Ahok referred to a Koranic verse during a speech on Pramuka Island in Jakarta's Thousand Islands district in September last year, which resulted in the blasphemy charges against him.
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