Indonesia police name 10 new suspects related to online hoaxes linked to last week's unrest

A series of peaceful protests after the the announcement of the official Indonesian presidential election result descended into two days of riots. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

JAKARTA - Indonesia's national police have named 10 new suspects accused of spreading online hoaxes linked to street violence in the capital city last week, following the announcement of the official presidential election result.

Police have also arrested a politician from the election campaign team of presidential challenger Prabowo Subianto as a suspect in charge of distributing information that added to tensions last week.

National police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told a press briefing on Tuesday (May 28) that one of the suspects distributed online content claiming the presence of foreign troops during the riots on May 21 and 22, and claimed they shot the rioters.

Other suspects were said by police to have sent threats to kill national figures on Facebook, spreading news about alleged unfair elections and posted videos claiming police officers tortured people in front of a mosque in Tanah Abang district, Central Jakarta.

"The 10 suspects arrested within these seven days prove the rise of accounts that deliver content in the form of hate speech, hoaxes and provocative narratives to incite public emotion and opinion. This is dangerous if we don't act," Brigadier-General Dedi said.

The information revealed on Tuesday came from an ongoing investigation.

On Monday, the police had named six other suspects linked to the unrest, including three men said to have been paid to kill four high-profile state officials.

A series of peaceful protests after the official result was announced on Monday descended into two days of riots that claimed the lives of eight people and injured more than 700 others.

President Joko Widodo was declared the winner of the April 17 polls, beating challenger Mr Prabowo.

The police fired tear gas and rubber bullets, and also deployed water cannon to control the crowds who had pelted the police with rocks and other objects and burnt piles of rubbish in the middle of the road.

In some areas, the rioters damaged and burned vehicles.

The authorities had described the street violence as a coordinated strike and "an event by design", with WhatsApp chat groups used by the rioters in their planning.

Following the riots, Mr Prabowo, a retired army general who has repeatedly made accusations over what he considered electoral fraud, and his running mate Sandiaga Uno filed a petition with the Constitutional Court to settle the dispute on the election result.

Speaking at the same news briefing, Senior Commissioner Rickynaldo Chairul said his team had arrested a politician from the election campaign team of Mr Prabowo. The suspect was believed to be in charge of distributing information which "triggers individual or group hatred" based on ethnic and religious sentiment and "fake news" to create public confusion.

The suspect, Mr Mustofa Nahrawardaya, is a politician from the National Mandate Party, a party allied to Mr Prabowo's Gerindra party.

One of Mr Mustofa's tweets mentioned that a teenager had been beaten by the police in the Tanah Abang district in Central Jakarta, during the riots on May 22, resulting in his death.

Police said what had happened was the police had acted against a young man who supplied big stones to rioters.

Mr Rickynaldo underlined that the police had earlier called and warned Mr Mustofa over his social media behaviour.

"We acted strongly because of his last (Twitter) post… We have previously made some attempts (to warn him) and this latest step is to enforce the law," said the deputy head of the cybercrime directorate at the police's criminal investigation department.

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