Asia

Jakarta governor 'Ahok' questioned over blasphemy claim

Protesters march on 4 November 2016 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The police investigation began before Friday's protest

Indonesian police have questioned Jakarta's Christian governor over allegations he insulted Islam.

It follows a mass protest on Friday against Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known by his Chinese nickname "Ahok".

A number of police were injured and an elderly man died in violent clashes at the end of the demonstration.

Mr Purnama stands accused of insulting the Koran while campaigning in governorship elections in the city.

In September he dismissed political attacks on him that cited a Koranic verse, which supposedly bars Muslims from choosing non-Muslim leaders.

He said that Islamic groups using the verse to convince other Muslims to oppose him were deceiving voters, who go to the polls in February.

The governor was questioned by police as a witness rather than as a suspect who could then be charged.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption On Friday, protesters hurled missiles at police, who responded with tear gas and water cannon

Mr Punama is the first non-Muslim Jakarta governor for 50 years and the first Chinese Indonesian to hold the post, making him a double minority in Muslim-majority Indonesia. Only around 1% of Indonesia's 250 million people are ethnic Chinese.

His policies on setting minimum wages, calling for free school education and healthcare, reducing traffic congestion and tackling corruption had won him widespread popularity and he was ahead in polls to win the governorship in his own right in 2017, having inherited the post when his predecessor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo was elected president in 2014.

President Widodo cancelled a planned visit to Australia following Friday's protest, blaming "political actors" for exploiting the situation.

The governor has apologised for any offence his remarks caused.

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