Jakarta Christian governor's blasphemy trial pushed back until after election amid religious tension

A court in Indonesia has pushed back the blasphemy trial of Jakarta's Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, aka "Ahok," amid rising religious tension between the city's Christians and Muslims.

(REUTERS / Beawiharta)Jakarta's Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, walks inside the courtroom as arrives for his blasphemy trial at the auditorium of the Agriculture Ministry, in Jakarta, Indonesia, April 11, 2017.

On Tuesday, prosecutors were expected to call for a jail sentence for Ahok in relation to the blasphemy charges filed against him. However, the judges granted the prosecutors' request to push back the trial to April 20, after Jakarta's gubernatorial election, Reuters details.

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Police had reportedly sent a letter to prosecutors and asked them to delay the blasphemy trial over security concerns as religious and ethnic tension in the city were on the rise. Prosecutor Ali Mukartono said the request can be considered, saying they need additional time to prepare for the next hearing.

Purnama has been allowed to continue his election campaign. And in spite of the ongoing trial, he still has strong public support due to his efforts to address the worsening traffic conditions and flooding in the city.

Some protesters have expressed their disappointment with the court's decision to delay Ahok's blasphemy trial. The decision has also sparked accusations that the court had given in to political interference, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

"I think there is a political factor behind it," said Islamic group Muhammadiyah official Pedri Kasman of the decision to adjourn the trial until April 20. "We deeply regret this decision because it hurts people's feeling of justice. I think it's only natural that after this people will assume that this is influenced by other elements outside the law."

Purnama had been tried last year after Muslim groups complained about his comments on his political opponents who use the Quran in their campaigns. The blasphemy accusation against him has also led hardline Muslims to stage massive protests, calling for the Christian governor to be fired.

Ahok is currently facing off with Anies Baswedan, a Muslim gubernatorial candidate in Jakarta. If proven guilty of blasphemy, he could face up to five years in jail.

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