Indonesia court refuses to drop blasphemy charges against Jakarta's Christian governor

Jakarta: An Indonesian court on Tuesday refused to drop blasphemy charges against the Christian governor of the capital Jakarta, as hundreds of people protested outside the court where the trial is taking place.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama — the first Christian to govern the capital in more than 50 years — sparked anger in the Muslim-majority country when he quoted a verse from the Koran while campaigning ahead of elections for the Jakarta governorship.

The high-profile case against Purnama, better known by his nickname Ahok, has captivated attention in Indonesia, and fanned concerns about hardliners pushing their agenda in the nation of 255 million.

 Indonesia court refuses to drop blasphemy charges against Jakartas Christian governor

Jakarta's Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama gestures inside the courtroom during his blasphemy trial at the North Jakarta District Court in Jakarta, Indonesia. Reuters

Judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto ruled that the charges filed by prosecutors were legitimate despite complaints from the defence which said the trial was rushed and surrounded by too much public scrutiny.

Outside the court, hundreds of protesters chanting slogans including "God is Great".

"We Muslims demand Ahok to be jailed or punished as severely as possible," said Suyono, who like many Indonesians go by one name.

Purnama remains a candidate for re-election in February, though he could be jailed for a maximum of five years if found guilty.

He had been a favourite to win but the lawsuit has seen polls turn against him.

"I don't really care that the judges have rejected the governor's objection. We will still campaign for the governor whatever happens," Jappy Pellokila, a Purnama supporter, told AFP.

Almost all blasphemy cases in Indonesia have resulted in convictions and rights groups fear the case is eroding the country's reputation for tolerance and diversity. The trial has been adjourned until 3 January.

Updated Date: Dec 27, 2016 12:56:56 IST