Court clears way for Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama's blasphemy trial

he politician, the favourite in opinion polls for the governor`s post before the case emerged, is a close ally of President Joko Widodo.

Jakarta:  An Indonesian court on Tuesday decided to proceed with the blasphemy trial of Jakarta`s governor, which could land him in jail for up to five years, officials said.

A bench of judges headed by Dwiarso Budi Santiarto said its role is not to rule on whether defendant Basuki Tjahaja Purnama is guilty or not, and that it has only decided on the formality, not the substance of the case, Efe news reported.

Judges gave the go-ahead to the case, noting that the accusations are in line with the law and dismissed the argument that evidence was required for filing charges.

The decision paves the way for depositions by witnesses and experts, proposed by both the prosecution and the defence, before judges issue a verdict.

Basuki, a Christian and of Chinese ethnicity, popularly known as Ahok, was booked by the police in November over comments he made in which he rejected criticism of him by opponents that had been based on verse 51 of the Quran.

During the preliminary investigation, Basuki claimed the video in which he was shown making those statements had been doctored and apologised for offending Muslims.

The governor, who is seeking re-election in February 2017, reiterated his innocence and denied he had any intention of insulting the religion through those statements, made in September during a campaign.

His candidacy for governor sparked Islamist protests, which began before the blasphemy case and supported rival parties in the elections.

The politician, the favourite in opinion polls for the governor`s post before the case emerged, is a close ally of President Joko Widodo, who blamed political interests for the protests.

Indonesia is home to the highest Islamic population globally, with 88 per cent of its 250 million people being Muslims, mostly moderate.

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