500,000 strong Jakarta blasphemy protest ends quietly
Hundreds of thousands of protesters formed a sea of white in central Jakarta on Friday to urge police to arrest the Indonesian capital's governor, who is accused of insulting Islam.
Shortly after Friday prayers, participants started to peacefully leave an area surrounding the country's National Monument, with hundreds of military and police personnel watching on.
The gathering -- named "Action to Defend Islam III" -- was the latest in a wave of sprawling protests to descend on the capital to demand the acceleration of legal proceedings against Governor Basuki "Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama.
Around 500,000 demonstrators, mostly dressed in white, had come from various regions of Java island to protest.
Among those making speeches was national police chief Tito Karnavian, who told the sprawling mass that the case is now been handled by the Attorney General's Office and will soon be tried in court.
"We ask for your support so that the legal processes can continue to run," Karnavian said, as demonstrators shouted "Prove it!" and "Arrest! Capture Ahok now!"
Others, meanwhile, quietly chanted the Takbir -- Allah hu Akbar (God is the greatest) -- while dozens of police wearing white caps and headwear, ever mindful of a Nov. 4 100,000-strong protest in Jakarta that descended into chaos, quietly mingled with the crowd.
Vice President Jusuf kalla and President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo -- a political ally of the governor -- were also in attendance, both joining in Friday prayers.
"Thank you for your wishes and efforts for the safety of the nation," Jokowi said in a speech to the mass, before asking them to peacefully return to their homes.
Ahok is accused of publicly insulting Islam, however he says he was calling for people not to be "deceived” by those using one of Quran's verses, Al Maidah: Chapter 51, not that the verse itself was insulting.
Around 13 different parties have reported him to the police on charges of defamation.
After a lengthy investigation, Ahok has been named a suspect in the case, but despite cries for his arrest he remains free but unable to leave the country.
On Friday, National police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar told Anadolu Agency that police were wary of terrorist groups infiltrating the protest and taking advantage of the complaint to cause chaos.
Police have arrested nine people they call Daesh sympathizers for provoking the Nov. 4 chaos in which violence erupted after nightfall.
One person was killed and dozens injured as a crowd attacked police lines and the governor’s house.
"To those who have other agendas [other than peaceful action], we wish to stop their intentions," Amar said.AA
Last Modified: 2016-12-02 12:50:42
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