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Jakarta’s Governor Was Questioned for Hours by Police as Part of a Blasphemy Probe

INDONESIA-POLITICS-RELIGION-ISLAM
Bay Ismoyo—AFP/Getty Images Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, Jakarta's first non-Muslim leader in half a century, during his gubernatorial campaign in Jakarta on Nov. 16, 2016

Some 200,000 hard-line Muslims took to the streets to demand Ahok be prosecuted

Indonesian police questioned the governor of the country’s capital for eight hours on Tuesday after he was named a suspect in a blasphemy case the week before.

According to his lawyer, Basuki T. Purnama — popularly known by his Chinese nickname Ahok — answered 27 questions during the interrogation, the Jakarta Post reports.

“This questioning is repetitive of the previous interrogation,” the lawyer, Sirra Prayuna, said, referring to hours of a closed-door interview that took place on Nov. 7.

Ahok was accused of insulting Islam following a campaign speech he made in September that allegedly invoked a Quranic verse. His speech drew the ire of hard-line and ultraconservative Muslims who have argued that a non-Muslim should not hold a leadership position in Indonesia, a Muslim-majority country. Many religious moderates have defended Ahok, and the Christian governor has repeatedly apologized, saying he never intended to insult Islam or the Quran.

His apology failed to appease the hard-line groups, however, and on Nov. 4, about 200,000 conservative Muslims protested in the streets of Jakarta demanding Ahok be prosecuted for blasphemy. The crowds also rallied against Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, whose party endorses the governor in the upcoming gubernatorial election.

With more protests planned, many in Jakarta see the action as an attempt to destabilize Jokowi’s government.

As Ahok was being questioned, Jokowi issued what appeared to be a warning following a breakfast meeting with a coalition partner. “The government is determined to prevent the growth of radicalism in this country,” he said Tuesday, according to Reuters.

In recent weeks Jokowi has sought to cool the flames and consolidate his power by meeting with leaders from mainstream Islamic groups and political parties — including former presidential-election rival Prabowo Subianto and his party’s chairwoman Megawati Sukarnoputri — as well as military officials.

Ahok assumed the capital’s top job in 2014 after his boss Jokowi won the presidential election. His appointment was seen as a milestone for tolerance in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

Despite the ongoing blasphemy case, Ahok is still allowed to seek re-election. His two main competitors are Anies Baswedan, who is backed by the party of Prabowo, and Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, the eldest son of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

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