Indonesian police have arrested eight people for alleged betrayal between Rachmawati Soekarnoputri, daughter of Indonesia’s founding father, hours before a 200,000-strong protest in Jakarta against the Christian governor on Friday.
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, has incensed conservative Muslims, allegedly blasphemous comments made about the Qur’an in the election campaign. The protesters have demanded that the governor, who is to face trial for the remarks, is the prison.
The police said that the arrested had planned to use the protest to stir up a revolt against the government. “They had the intention to ask and to incite the people to topple the legitimate government to mobilize the masses,” police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar told reporters.
Jakarta protests: Muslims in force against the Christian governor Ahok
The case of Ahok, who is a member of the country’s ethnic Chinese Indonesian minority, has opened a political Pandora’s box
he said that “the Prison Ahok, the law must be fair”, the protesters marched through the streets, for the second time in a month.
Rachmawati reportedly held a press conference on Thursday, in which he invited those who will join Friday’s protest to occupy the parliament building. Ahmad Dhani, a rock star of political hope that has accompanied Rachmawati on Thursday, has been arrested for the same accusations.
Hours before the anti-Ahok protest, the police announced that eight people had been arrested for suspicion of treason.
“Eight people have been arrested and are undergoing interrogation by the police of Jakarta. We are waiting for the examination results,” the spokesman of the national police, Insp Gen Boy Rafli Amar said on Friday. The other two were arrested for alleged offences under Indonesia’s electronic information law.
The police did not immediately release the names of those arrested, but a lawyer for Rachmawati, the daughter of Indonesia’s first president, confirmed that she was among them. She is the younger sister of Megawati Soekarnoputri, a former president of the same, and the political patron of the current president, Joko Widodo.
“Yes, she was arrested. Police officers arrived at the home at 5 in the morning and took it at 6 in the morning,” said the lawyer Aldwin Rahardian.
It is believed that the two former general Kivlan Zein, and Adityawarman and activist Sri Bintang Pamungkas, were also among those arrested for alleged treason.
Under the Indonesian penal code, treason carries a maximum sentence of life.
Ahok supporters say that the world’s largest Muslim-majority, his case is a test of the country’s commitment to pluralism and tolerance.
Others have suggested that the protests point to growing religious conservatism, or nefarious political moves to undermine the president.
But Aleksius Jemadu, a professor from Pelita Harapan University in Jakarta, said Friday the arrests should not be a cause of great concern.
“It’s good the government has been firm in establishing the rule of law, accused of evil intentions to change the government, or to overthrow the government, should be held responsible for what they had in mind to do,” he said. “In the eyes of the public it is good that the government is not in the business to ensure the supremacy of the law.”
The crowd had begun to thin in the afternoon, after the peaceful protest on Friday, but a demonstration against the governor turned violent after sunset, in the last month, with protesters burning police trucks and officers in the use of tear gas to disperse the crowd. Protesters had called on the president to meet them, a request that was ignored.
In an apparent move to appease the crowd on Friday, Widodo joined in prayer at the national monument, commending the peaceful gathering and encouraging people to return home safely.