Friday, November 4, 2016

Jakarta protest: Violence on the streets as hardline Muslims demand Christian governor Ahok be jailed

Jakarta: The streets of Jakarta erupted into violence on Friday night with scores of people injured as police clashed with demonstrators following a rally of about 150,000 people demanding the arrest of the city's Chinese Christian governor. CNN reported that 75 people were treated in hospital, mostly related to exposure to tear gas and head injuries from thrown objects.

Indonesia correspondent reports Jewel Topsfield outside the largest mosque in South-East Asia on Friday evening, where thousands of muslims are demanding the arrest of Jakarta's Chinese Christian governor.

The protest was largely peaceful during the day however the mood soured after clashes between police and demonstrators on Friday night culminated in police using tear gas to disperse the remaining crowd outside the presidential palace.

Demonstrators threw stones and vehicles belonging to the police paramilitary force BRIMOB were set on fire.

The head of the Islamic Students' Association (HMI), Mulyadi P Tamsir, denied the group started the fight with police, saying they had been planning to leave at 6pm but were hemmed in.
"There were around 1000 HMI members," he told Fairfax Media. "We were sitting about 30 to 100 metres from the broken barricade, we backed away immediately after the tear gas shooting. My eyes hurt, my face was hot, we scrambled for water to wash our faces. We backed away immediately. I don't have any reports yet if any of our members were hurt. It was a peace action, we stuck to that."Mr Mulyadi said the fight had been initiated by a group next to them. "There was a small incident in the afternoon, some garbage, not tires, were burned, but it was put out immediately. It was a peace action."
The rally, spearheaded by the militant Islamic Defenders Front, came about because Muslim hardliners want Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, widely known as Ahok, to be jailed for allegedly insulting the Koran.
About 20,000 police and military personnel secured the route of the demonstration in Central Jakarta amid fears it would be hijacked by extremists keen to foment violence.
Simultaneous protests took place in other Indonesian cities including Medan and Bengkulu.
"Arrest and try Ahok and his cronies dead or alive," read a sign suspended from Istiqlal mosque, the largest mosque in South East Asia.
Several embassies, including those from Australia and the US, had warned their citizens to stay away from the protests, and some schools in the capital closed.
Ahok is being investigated by police for alleged blasphemy after he appeared to suggest in an edited video transcript that voters were being deceived by a verse in the Koran.

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