Indonesian police have accused the top editor of a leading English-language newspaper of blasphemy after the paper published a cartoon depicting the flag of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group that allegedly insulted Islam.

Meidyatama Suryodiningrat, editor-in-chief of the Jakarta Post, would be summoned for questioning next week, Jakarta police spokesman Colonel Rikwanto said on Thursday.

Police typically prepare the dossiers to be handed over to prosecutors, who will file the charges. If found guilty, he could face five years in prison, added Rikwanto, who like many Indonesians, uses a single name.

The cartoon published on July 3 put a skull and crossbones in the black-and-white flag of the ISIL group and left sacred phrases in Arabic, including "Allah", that appear on the flag inside the skull.

The paper has apologised and retracted the cartoon, but an Islamic group, Jakarta Mubalig Corps, filed a complaint to the police, arguing that the case should be brought to the court, the Associated press reported.

Meidyatama defended the publication as a "journalistic piece" criticising ISIL, an armed group that has seized control of chunks of Iraq and Syria and has beheaded scores of people.

"We are amazed because the fact is we did not commit a criminal act as accused", he said in a statement published by the paper on Thursday. Meidyatama said the case should be taken up instead by the Press Council, a government-sanctioned board dealing with press ethics.

It is the first case of blasphemy under the government of President Joko Widoodo, who took office in October.

The constitution of Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, guarantees freedom of speech but in recent years blasphemy cases have been filed against those seen as offending Islam.

Source: AP