JAKARTA, Indonesia – The minority Christian governor of the Indonesian capital, who is on trial for alleged blasphemy, sobbed in court on Tuesday as he recalled the role of Muslim godparents in his childhood and said he would never intentionally insult Islam.
It was the first day of a trial that has challenged Indonesia's reputation for practicing a moderate form of Islam, shaken the government and exposed religious and racial fault-lines in the world's most populous Muslim nation. It was preceded in the past six weeks by massive protests in the capital Jakarta against the governor.
Gov. Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, an ally of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, faces up to five years in prison if found guilty. He is the first ethnic Chinese governor of Jakarta and the first Christian in more than half a century.
"As a person who grew up in Islamic circles, is not possible for me to insult Islam," Ahok told the court.
The blasphemy controversy erupted in September when a video circulated online in which Ahok lightheartedly said that people were being deceived if they believed his detractors who asserted that the Quran prohibits Muslims having a non-Muslim leader. He is seeking a second term as governor in elections due February.
Anti- and pro-Ahok groups gathered outside the court but were kept apart by police. The trial is being broadcast live.
A Nov. 4 protest in Jakarta against Ahok turned violent, with one death and dozens injured.