Jakarta Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama resolved to tone down his signature gruff style following his naming of a suspect in the case. (Antara Photo/Hafidz Mubarak A.)

Amnesty International Slams Blasphemy Case as 'Worrying Precedent'


NOVEMBER 17, 2016

Jakarta. International human rights watchdog Amnesty International has called on the National Police to drop a blasphemy probe against Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, saying it sets a worrying precedent for intolerance in Indonesia.

Basuki, who is running for reelection in February's poll, was named a suspect in a blasphemy case following a campaign speech made to residents of Pramuka Island in Kepulauan Seribu two months ago.

In video footage of the campaign event, which went viral across social media, Basuki said verses from the Koran should not be manipulated for political gain.

In response, thousands of protesters from various Muslim groups took to the streets of the capital on Oct. 21 and Nov. 4, to demand police investigate the blasphemy allegations.

“By carrying out a criminal investigation and naming Ahok as a suspect, the authorities have shown they are more worried about hard-line religious groups than respecting and protecting human rights for all,” Amnesty International’s director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Rafendi Djamin, said in a statement.

Rafensi said Basuki's naming as a suspect is a controversial step with police investigators divided over continuing the case.

“Indonesia prides itself on its image as a tolerant country. This case would set a deeply worrying precedent, making it hard for the authorities to argue that they respect all faiths,” Rafendi said.

He called on the Indonesian government to consider repealing the blasphemy charge, which is ruled in Article 156 of Criminal Code Procedure Law, as it often targets those belonging to minority religions, faiths and opinions.