Indonesia Police Arrest Demonstrators on Suspected Treason Charges
JAKARTA – Indonesian Police said 10 people including a daughter of former president Sukarno, Rachmawati Sukarnoputri, were arrested for suspected treason and other crimes for allegedly planning to use a mass protest in the capital on Friday to cause chaos and overthrow the government.
The second major protest by conservative Muslims against the Christian governor of Jakarta drew 200,000 people to the capital’s streets and ended peacefully. The governor, an ally of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, is being prosecuted for blasphemy, a criminal offence in predominantly Muslim Indonesia.
Police made the arrests at homes and a hotel on Friday before the protest began and said they had stepped up their investigation of the group over the past three weeks.
The eight arrested for alleged treason include Rachmawati, the daughter of Indonesia’s founding president and the younger sister of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri; retired army Gen Â Kivlan Zein; and musician-turned-politician Ahmad Dani.
Two people were arrested for suspected breaches of the electronic information and transactions law.
“They intended to incite people to overthrow the legitimate government using today’s mass rally,” said National Police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar. “They planned to seize the Parliament building.”
Police did not comment on how extensive or sophisticated the plot was. There was a heavy police and military presence in Jakarta for Friday’s protest.
Many of those arrested are known as critics of Jokowi, who defeated a candidate from the political establishment in a 2014 election to become president.
Jokowi had said a Nov 4 protest against Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama that turned violent was the result of political actors taking advantage of the situation. He didn’t name anyone.
Amar said one of the group’s aims was to restore Indonesia’s original constitution, which provided for the president to be elected by parliament, rather than a national poll.
The president, a political ally of the governor who angered hard-liners by being out of the city during their first protest, unexpectedly went to the national monument to join Friday prayers with the sprawling crowd. He called for protesters to leave peacefully. They cheered and then broke into chants calling for the governor’s arrest, but later, people streamed peacefully out of the area and marched to a major traffic circle before dispersing.
The blasphemy controversy erupted in September when a video circulated online of Ahok criticising detractors who argued the Koran prohibits Muslims from having a non-Muslim leader.
It has challenged the image of tolerance associated with Islam in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, and has shaken the government of Jokowi, who accused unnamed political actors of trying to undermine him. The son of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is vying against Ahok for Jakarta governor in elections set for February.
A Nov 4 protest against Ahok, the first ethnic Chinese to be Jakarta governor and the first Christian in half a century, attracted about 100,000 people. After nightfall, it turned violent, with one death and dozens injured. Police wanted Friday’s protest to disperse in the early afternoon following prayers.
Lisnawati Djohar, a resident of West Sumatra’s Padang city, said she flew to Jakarta with a dozen friends for the protest.
“I’ve been called to defend Islam,” she said. “As a Muslim, I feel guilty if I refuse a demand to defend my religion. I believe Ahok insulted the holy Koran and it has hurt us.”
Rizieq Syihab, leader of the Islamic Defenders Front, a vigilante group that helped organise the demonstrations, gave a fiery speech to the protest in which he asserted Indonesia would be peaceful if there was no blasphemy and other problems such as gays.
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