Ahok supporters finding new strength

Ahok supporters finding new strength
Show of strength: Supporters of Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama stage a rally outside the temporary office of the North Jakarta District Court on Jl. Gajah Mada in Jakarta on Tuesday. State prosecutors rejected all parts of Ahok’s defense plea and demanded the judges continue the blasphemy trial.
PHOTO: AFP

As prosecutors read out their statement that rejected Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's refutation, hundreds of supporters of the blasphemy defendant staged a demonstration outside the North Jakarta District Court on Tuesday, asking the judges to release the beleaguered incumbent Jakarta gubernatorial candidate.

It was the first time since his allegedly blasphemous remarks started to trouble him two months ago that a large number of demonstrators openly voiced support for the capital's first Chinese-Indonesian

governor.

Wearing the iconic blue and red plaid shirts, the protesters carried signs that read, "We are Muslims who forgive Ahok" and "Release Ahok".

"I'll tell you what Ahok has done to Islam. He sent mosque keepers to go on the umrah and built mosques. He is not an enemy of Islam," a man in a white cap said through a loudspeaker to supporters who responded with a thunderous applause.

The scene at the old Central Jakarta District Court building on Jl. Gajah Mada stood in contrast to Ahok's first trial hearing a week before. At that time, no Ahok supporters were present. Instead, hundreds of protesters swarmed the street to demand that Ahok be jailed immediately.

At least three large rallies with similar demands were staged in Jakarta, as well as in other cities, shaking the country's political stability.

With the "anti-Ahok" protestors also present on Tuesday, the two groups were separated by dozens of police officers and a police Barracuda vehicle.

"We were trying to display support for Ahok and send a message to the judges and other people that there are Muslims who support tolerance and a fair trial," Yayong Waryono of the Bara-Badja (Volunteer Front for Basuki and Djarot) told The Jakarta Post. The abbreviation refers to Ahok and his running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat.

Yayong said they decided to stage a rally because they were concerned with the hundreds of anti-Ahok protestors "trying to put pressure on the panel of judges".

A recent survey carried out by Jakarta-based pollster Poltracking Indonesia found that most Ahok supporters in Jakarta were from the middle class group, which seemed to make up most of the

demonstrators.

Inside the court building, prosecutors asked the judges to ignore the refutation statement emotionally presented by Ahok last week.

Tens of thousands of Muslim hardliners in protest march against Jakarta governor for alleged blasphemy

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    Ahok - the first Christian to go­­vern Jakarta in more than 50 years

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    - will defend allegations that he insulted the Quran and fight calls for his imprisonment under Indo­nesia's tough blasphemy laws.

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    Ahok, known for his outspoken style, outraged Muslims when he controversially quoted a passage from the Islamic holy text while campaigning in elections for the Jakarta governorship.

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    The Jakarta police are set to deploy more than 2,000 personnel to secure the first hearing in the trial of non-active Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama over blasphemy allegations at the North Jakarta District Court

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    Thousands of Muslims worshipers have been gathering at the National Monument (Monas) square in Central Jakarta since Friday morning to join a mass prayer aimed at intensifying pressure on the police to detain Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama in a blasphemy case.

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    Indonesian police offered prayers for peace and called for unity ahead of a massive protest by Muslim hardliners against Jakarta's governor that authorities fear could turn violent.

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    Although the event, initiated by the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council’s Fatwa (GNPF-MUI), is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m., some participants said they had arrived as early as 5.30 a.m.

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    Most of them were wearing white.

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    he arriving worshipers first did the wudhu cleansing ritual with water provided at the location, before sitting down on their prayer mats, facing a large stage where the sermon will be given.

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    Hundreds of police personnel, wearing white Muslim caps, are on standby at the event.

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    This event is a follow-up to a large-scale anti-Ahok rally on Nov. 4, when protesters, mostly from Muslim groups, swarmed Jakarta streets to demand Ahok's prosecution.

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    a Christian and the first ethnic Chinese in the job, over claims that he insulted the Quran.

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    As many as 200,000 demonstrators are expected to gather at Monas during the gathering, which has been authorized to run until 1 p.m.

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    Indonesian police quelled a mass protest by tens of thousands of hardline Muslims , firing tear gas and water cannon into crowds

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    Last month, the National Police named Ahok, a Christian of Chinese descent, a suspect of blasphemy over comments on a Quranic verse the governor had made during a visit to Thousand Islands regency in late September.

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    At one stage during the march, the crowd chanted, "Arrest Ahok now... Kill Ahok now," reported The Straits Times.

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    Police formed human barricades outside key buildings such as ministries, the National Monument and the presidential palace. Armoured vehicles were also on guard to prepare for any violence.

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    A police spokesman said one person died and 12 were hurt.

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    Police said the number of demonstrators in central Jakarta swelled to about 150,000 in the hours after Friday prayers as they congregated around the palace of President Joko Widodo.

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    The crowd grew restive - some threw rocks at the police, two vehicles were torched and a fire broke out near the city's National Monument.

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    Many protesters were clad in robes and Muslim caps as they called for the resignation of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahja Purnama.

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    Tens of thousands of Muslim hardliners march to the presidential palace to protest against Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama for alleged blasphemy.

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    Many of the demonstrators, led by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), had performed their Friday (Nov 4) prayers at the Istiqlal mosque, as well as on the streets and pavements outside.

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    Droves of protesters, including women in headscarves, arrived in buses, motorcycles and even on foot from as far as Bali and Kalimantan, choking major roads in the capital city.

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    Men in white Islamic robes chanted "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greater) as they walked towards the mosque, carrying Indonesian flags and waving posters with the words "Arrest or Expel Ahok", referring to the Jakarta governor.

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    Indonesian muslim students carry a mock coffin that reads: "Arrest Ahok".

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    Footage from local TV stations showed demonstrators standing on trucks and shouting through loudspeakers, calling for a peaceful rally.

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    Organisers said 200,000 people, including many from outside Jakarta, will participate in the rally. They will march to the state palace to press for the authorities to charge Mr Basuki, better known as Ahok, for allegedly insulting Islam.

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    Despite the major rally, the governor who is seeking re-election, remains unfazed, saying he will continue to campaign on Friday.

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    Truckloads of soldiers and police took the streets of Jakarta, securing shopping malls and business areas,

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    as residents in the Indonesian capital braced for a large-scale protest planned by hardline Muslim groups.

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    Thousands of protesters, led by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), are expected to demand the resignation of the Jakarta governor,

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    Some Muslim groups have accused Purnama of blasphemy after he said his opponents had deceived voters by attacking him using a verse from the Quran.

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    The mood is tense in Jakarta, a sprawling city of around 10 million, with companies asking employees to work from home,

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    access to the main business district restricted and several foreign embassies urging their citizens to stay safe.

Lead prosecutor Mukartono said the refutation by Ahok and his legal team was baseless and urged the judges, presided over by Dwiarso Budi Santiarto, to proceed with the trial.

In his refutation, Ahok said as evidence of his great respect for Islam, he had funded many mosque keepers to go on the umrah, therefore leaving him with no reason to commit blasphemy against the religion.

But Mukartono brushed off the claim.

"The source of the funds was from the Jakarta regional budget and it was normal for a regional leader to do such a thing," he said.

Prosecutors also questioned a claim conveyed by Ahok's legal team in the previous hearing that it was a "trial by mob".

Prosecutors claimed that despite the blasphemy allegation that stirred public controversy, it was the crime that brought Ahok to court, not the public pressure.

"The legal process had been made under the proper procedures and none of it was affected by public pressure," Mukartono said.

The trial has been adjourned until Dec. 27, when the panel of judges are scheduled to issue an interim decision on whether to accept the refutation statement and terminate the trial, in which Ahok would be cleared of the blasphemy charge.

Ahok has been indicted on Article 156 section (a) of the Criminal Code (KUHP) on blasphemy, which carries a maximum of five years' imprisonment, for his controversial remarks that included a reference to a Quranic verse when he made a visit to Thousand Islands regency in September.

The Jakarta Police said they deployed 2,986 officers to secure the area surrounding the court building.

Read also: More than 2,000 personnel deployed to secure Ahok's second hearing

The police have repeatedly voiced concerns over possible security issues during the trial hearings and asked the Supreme Court to consider relocating the trial as the current venue is located in the heart of Jakarta where many government institutions and major businesses operate.

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