Jakarta governor Ahok named suspect in high-profile blasphemy case

Thousands of Muslims complained against the Christian governor demanding his resignation and arrest.

Jakarta Governor Basuki
Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama Reuters

Jakarta's blasphemy case involving governor Ahok took an unexpected turn on 16 November after police announced that the Christian leader has been named as a suspect in the case.

Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as "Ahok", received flak for allegedly misquoting a verse from the Quran during one of his speeches in September. The incident sparked outrage among several Muslim groups in Indonesia and a complaint was filed against the governor demanding his resignation and arrest.

It was reported that The National Police said in a press conference that naming Ahok as a prime suspect in the blasphemy case was a tedious job as there were sharp differences and contradictory views among investigators regarding his involvement.

"The investigators were divided because the experts were. However, some of them believed there are criminal elements in this case. Therefore, they have decided to bring this case to an open trial," said National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian, according to The Jakarta Post.

Ahok can get jailed for five years if he is found guilty by the districts court. However, the governor has apologised for the alleged profanities and said that he has already spoken with his family about the possibility of being imprisoned.

According to Muslim hardliners, the governor, during a speech, criticised his opponents for citing a verse in the Quran which warns Muslims against forming an alliance with Christians and Jews saying that they were "lying".

Police also reportedly revealed that some investigators claim the video of the speech has been doctored. They claim that a social media user edited and subtitled the video by omitting a keyword so that it looked like the governor was criticising the Koran rather than his rivals.

On 4 November, tens of thousands of Muslim hardliners took to the streets protesting against the Chinese Christian governor. The protest soon accelerated into a bloody demonstration where gangs of jihadists torched police cars and attacking officers. Police had to fire tear gas, water cannon and truncheons into thousands of rioting protesters to bring the situation under control. It was also reported that the angry mobs tried to enter the governor's housing complex in northern Jakarta but the police foiled the move.

Meanwhile, Indonesia's President Joko Widodo vehemently condemned the violence and also cancelled his visit to Australia.