President Jokowi orders making Ahok case deliberations public to prevent suspicion

Jakarta (ANTARA News) – To prevent suspicion or prejudice, the deliberations into the alleged case of blasphemy involving Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) has been made open to the public, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has said.

“Yesterday, I indeed asked for opening the deliberation so that there will be no suspicion,” he said after reviewing the progress of a toll road project in Pondok Kelapa, Duren Sawit, East Jakarta, on Monday.

He had ordered the Indonesian police chief, General Tito Karnavian to open the case deliberations to the public, He said.

“Of course, it must be examined to ensure whether it is allowed by the law,” he said.

“He (the President) has ordered me to process the alleged blasphemy case against Purnama swiftly and transparently,” Tito Karnavian said after meeting with the president Saturday evening.

He had received the order to open the deliberations of the case to the public, he said.

“The president ordered opening the deliberation to the public and media coverage,” he said.

By making deliberations open to the public and allowing media to cover it live, the public is expected to see how transparent the process is, he said.

Basuki Tjahaha Purnama was grilled by the police Monday in connection with the case.

The police have questioned dozens of witnesses in the case including 10 expert witnesses.

If Purnama were to be found guilty his status would be ungraded from a witness to a suspect, but if he was found not guilty the case would be dropped.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary member has called on the police to reconsider their decision to publicize the deliberations.

“Based on the law, the process of investigation is secret and investigators conduct the case deliberation independently,” said Nasir Djamil from House Commission III.

In reality, what the public wanted by asking for transparency was the release of all evidence relating to the case, he said.

General Tito may agree with the publics wish and publicize the deliberations but he cautioned that by doing so it should not create any new problems, or the decision would invite a lawsuit alleging that it was not in line with judicial procedures, he said.

“I am afraid if the deliberation is covered live investigators may change to become actors while the one investigated would be playing a role to meet public expectations,” the politician from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) said.

Investigators must be independent and no intervention from anywhere should be allowed, he said.

Hundreds of thousands of people from various Islamic organizations staged a demonstration peacefully on Friday, but some refused to disperse after the deadline ended at 6pm, and after an agreement had been reached between the government and representatives of the demonstrators.

Rioting flared up with the police being pelted by stones and pieces of wood, and police cars were set afire. The police responded by firing teargas in an effort to disperse them.

The demonstrators demanded speeding up of the police investigation to determine the legal status of Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, or Ahok as he is called, with regard to the blasphemous remark he had allegedly made at a meeting with people in Kepulauan Seribu, North Jakarta, recently.

Ahok, who is contesting for the Jakarta gubernatorial election in February next year, had offered an apology for the remark, while the police have also already starting questioning witnesses.

President Joko Widodo has expressed his regret over the clash after the demonstration in front of the Merdeka Palace here Friday began dispersing at around 7:00 pm local time.

“We deplore the incident after the Isha (evening prayer), which should have dispersed but turned violent. We have seen that it was exploited by political actors who made use of the situation,” Jokowi said at a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta early Saturday.

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has accused Ahok of committing blasphemy while recently making a statement on a verse from the Quran that prohibits Muslims from electing non-Muslim leaders.

Ahok had insulted the Quran and the ulemas, and that police should investigate the case, MUI chairman Maruf Amin pointed out in a statement.

The MUI referred to the statement by Ahok in the Thousand Island not to be deceived by people using the verse asking them not to elect a non-Muslim leader in the forthcoming election.

Ahok is contesting the Jakarta gubernatorial election scheduled for February 15, 2017.

(Reported by Agus Salim/Uu.H-YH/INE/KR-BSR/A014)