Protest rally group held for treason 'received funds'

JAKARTA • Indonesian police said yesterday they have evidence that a group of people accused of plotting to hijack a protest rally to lead an uprising against the government had received money transfers from an unidentified source.

Police arrested eight people last Friday for suspected treason in pre-dawn raids, ahead of the rally that day by protesters opposed to the Christian governor of Jakarta.

"There is evidence of transfers," national police spokesman Martinus Sitompul said yesterday, when asked if the group had been funded by others.

He declined to elaborate on where the funds had come from.

More than 150,000 people, led by hardline Islamists, took to the streets last week to call for the arrest of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as Ahok, whom they say insulted the Quran.

Mr Basuki faces trial on a charge of blasphemy that is expected to begin next week, a court official said.

The charge was filed in response to comments he made about his opponents' use of the Quran during political campaigning. He has denied wrongdoing and apologised for the remarks.

The 50-year-old is a close ally of President Joko Widodo. His current bid for re-election is backed by the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle, Golkar, NasDem and Hanura parties.

Hours before last Friday's rally started, police rounded up 11 people, including Ms Rachmawati Sukarnoputri, a daughter of Indonesia's founding president Sukarno .

Eight of the 11 are accused of treason and three of spreading hate speech online. Three are in police custody.

The arrests followed weeks of simmering political and religious tension, during which Mr Joko repeatedly called for calm and met top military and political figures.

The President said "political actors" had fanned violence at an earlier protest on Nov 4.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2016, with the headline 'Protest rally group held for treason 'received funds''. Print Edition | Subscribe