By Agustinus Beo Da Costa
JAKARTA (Reuters) - A former Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said on Wednesday he believed his telephone may have recently been illegally tapped by government agencies and he had sought an explanation from his successor, President Joko Widodo.
Yudhoyono, who was in office from 2004 until 2014, also denied that he or any of his relatives had backed mass rallies late last year calling for the jailing for blasphemy of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ally of Widodo.
Political and religious tension have been high in the Muslim-majority country ahead of an election for Jakarta governor on Feb. 15.
Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian, is being challenged by two Muslims, one of them a Yudhoyono's son, Agus Yudhoyono.
The elder Yudhoyono's suspicion about his telephone being tapped apparently arose during a court case this week when a lawyer said there was evidence Yudhoyono had telephoned a Muslim cleric to urge him to issue an edict declaring that Purnama had committed blasphemy.
"If indeed my conversations have been tapped without a legitimate reason or court order ... then that is illegal wiretapping," Yudhoyono told a news conference.
Yudhoyono said he had sought an explanation from Widodo over the suspected wiretapping. A spokesman for the president was not immediately available for comment.
Purnama is on trial for allegedly insulting the Koran while campaigning. He has denied wrongdoing.
Yudhoyono denied trying to whip up street protests against Purnama.
"I was accused of funding the peaceful actions and, as a human being, of course I have to convey that none of that is true," Yudhoyono told the news conference.
Police have said they are investigating possible links between Agus Yudhoyono's campaign team and an alleged treason plot that led to several arrests early on Dec. 2.
Later that day, a hardline Muslim group led a big rally in Jakarta calling for Purnama to be jailed. That protest, and one a few weeks earlier, were the biggest Indonesia has seen in nearly 20 years and dented Purnama's popularity.
Former president Yudhoyono has denied that he or his family had anything to do with the rallies or the alleged treason plot.
Polls show Agus Yudhoyono is now neck and neck with Purnama in the race to lead the city of 10 million.
The job of governor of the capital can lead to higher office. Widodo was Jakarta governor before making his successful bid for the presidency.
(Additional reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor and Tom Allard; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Ed Davies and Robert Birsel)