Jakarta governor, Basuki Tjahaha Purnama, wept in court on the first day of his blasphemy trial as he denied allegations he intended to insult the Koran. The much-anticipated trial opened on Tuesday amid tight security and mobs of Muslims demanding his prosecution.
Ahok, as he is better known, is a minority Christian of Chinese descent and the first non-Muslim governor of Indonesia’s capital in more than half a century. He is accused of using one of the verses of the Koran to boost his chances of winning the election.
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He told voters in September not to believe his detractors who claim that the Islamic holy book forbids Muslims for being led by non-Muslims. Under Indonesia’s 1965 blasphemy law, Ahok faces up to five years in prison if proven guilty. He has since repeatedly apologized for his statements.
In an emotional speech before five sitting judges, Ahok said it was never his intention to insult Islam. “As a person who grew up among Muslims, it is not possible for me to intentionally insult Islam because that is the same as disrespecting the people I appreciate and love,” he said.
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Ahok broke down in tears twice as he talked about the affection of his Muslim godparents, saying that insulting Islam is tantamount to causing deep offense to his own family which he would never commit willfully. He also mentioned how he helped poor Indonesians perform the Hajj pilgrimage when he was district chief 10 years ago.
Ahok added that his comments were not an interpretation of the Koran but a reference to politicians who exploit the verse. “What I said was not intended to insult Al Maidah 51, let alone blaspheme Islam or offend Muslims,” he said. “My remarks were directed at politicians who use Al Maidah 51 incorrectly because they don’t want to compete in elections in a healthy way.”
The next hearing is scheduled on Dec. 20.
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