Jakarta's Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, speaks to his lawyers inside the courtroom during his blasphemy trial at the auditorium of the Agriculture Ministry in Jakarta on April 11. The first Christian to govern the capital in more than 50 years, Purnama is on trial accused of blasphemy over remarks he made about the Quran. (Photo by Beawiharta/AFP)
The decision to adjourn the blasphemy trial of Jakarta's Christian governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, has met with derision from both his lawyers and the Muslim hardliners who are demanding he be thrown in jail.
Judges at the North Jakarta District Court on April 11 put back the next hearing scheduled for April 19 by one day to allow prosecutors more time to prepare their closing arguments.
The trial will resume on April 20, one day after Jakarta goes to the polls for the governor run-off vote. A verdict is not expected until around May 16.
Opinion polls still have the incumbent governor, popularly known as "Ahok," trailing his rival, former education minister Anies Rasyid Baswedan, a Muslim.
Pollster, National Survey Media, revealed earlier this week that Baswedan led with 49.8 percent, while Ahok was on 43.5 percent.
The hard-line Islamic Defenders Front, which has spearheaded the campaign to jail the ethnic Chinese governor since the blasphemy allegation was made late last year, decried the adjournment and called it an insult to justice.
"Powerful people are making a mockery of the law. The law is no longer in control. Even judges are weak before someone who insults the Quran," said Novel Chaidir Hasan Bamukmin, secretary of the group.
He also claimed the adjournment was politically motivated as the scheduled hearing was supposed to take place on the same day as the run-off.
As well as the prosecutors, police too had asked for an adjournment. With tensions already running high, police feared having the hearing and vote on the same day could light a spark that cause these tensions to spill over into violence.
Critics have said radical Muslims have hijacked the governor polls, turning it from a political issue into a religious one, highlighting the blasphemy allegation against Ahok as a prime example.
The Christian governor was accused of hurting Islam during a campaign speech last September.
Since then Muslim voters have been told by hardliners not to vote for a non-Muslim.
This explains why Ahok's rival leads in the polls, observers say. Prior to the election the Christian governor had maintained a good approval rating among voters who were happy with the way he governed the city.
Meanwhile, Ahok's lawyers have also criticized the hearing delay, saying they could have used the April 19 hearing to bolster their case. Instead the judges seem to have helped the unprepared prosecutors, they suggested.
"The delay is advantageous to prosecutors and gives us nothing. We could have presented more testimonies from witnesses," Edi Danggur, one of Ahok's lawyers, told ucanews.com.
He, however, did not believe the delay was linked to the election.
"Judges never get influenced by such things," he said.