JAKARTA An Indonesian court is expected to decide on Tuesday whether Jakarta’s Christian governor is guilty of blasphemy against Islam, in a trial that is widely seen as a test of religious tolerance in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.
The government has been criticised for not doing enough to protect religious minorities but President Joko Widodo, a key ally of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, has urged restraint over the trial and called for all sides to respect the legal process.
Officials said thousands of police will be deployed in the capital in case clashes break out between Purnama’s supporters and hardline Islamists who have demanded he be sacked and jailed over allegations he insulted the Islamic holy book, the Koran.
“Both groups will have the opportunity to demonstrate, but we are taking steps to prevent clashes,” said national police spokesman Setyo Wasisto.
Purnama lost his bid for re-election in an April run-off – by far the most divisive and religiously charged election in recent years – to a Muslim rival, Anies Baswedan.
He will hand over to Baswedan in October.
Prosecutors have called for a suspended one-year prison sentence for Purnama. His opponents believe that is too light. The maximum sentence in five years.
“We hope the sentence given will be heavier than what has been called for,” said Novel Bamukmin, spokesman for the Islamic Defenders Forum (FPI), a conservative Islamic group that was instrumental in organizing mass protests against Purnama seeking re-election.
Purnama has denied wrongdoing, though he apologized for comments he made last year criticizing his opponents’ use of the Koran in political campaigning.
(Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)