Asia

Indonesia protest: Jakarta anti-governor rally turns violent

Muslim protesters chant slogans near burning police trucks during a clash with the police outside the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. Image copyright AP
Image caption Cars were set on fire as the protest turned violent

Indonesian police have used tear gas and water cannon to subdue protesters as thousands of hard-line Muslims marched against Jakarta's governor.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian, is the first ethnic Chinese to hold the governor's post in the capital of majority Muslim Indonesia.

The demonstrators accuse him of having insulted Islam's holy book, the Koran, and want him to be prosecuted.

Clashes broke out between police and protesters who refused to disperse.

One elderly man died, the Associated Press reports, citing police. Several other people, including police officers, have been injured.

Protesters had earlier marched upon the presidential palace.

Police had been braced for the possibility of religious and racial tensions erupting at the rally, which an estimated 50,000 people attended.

It had mostly been peaceful but groups of angry demonstrators clashed with police after nightfall and set vehicles alight.

In 1998, a wave of anti-Chinese sentiment led to mobs looting and burning Chinese-owned shops and houses. Ethnic Chinese make up about 1% of Indonesia's population of 250 million people.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Basuki Tjahaja Purnama is the first ethnic Chinese person to be the governor of Jakarta
Image copyright AP
Image caption Police used water cannon and tear gas

The protest was held to demand that Mr Purnama be prosecuted for blasphemy over comments he made in September that were seen as criticising a Koranic verse.

He said that Islamic groups using a passage of the Koran to urge people not to support him were deceiving voters, who will go to the polls in February.

The verse is interpreted by some as prohibiting Muslims from living under the leadership of a non-Muslim.

Mr Purnama has since apologised but formal complaints were lodged against him by Islamic groups for defamation. He is now being investigated by police.

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Some protesters at Friday's rally carried signs calling for the governor's death, the BBC's Rebecca Henschke in Jakarta says.

Representatives met with Vice-President Yusuf Kalla, who promised that the investigation into Mr Purnama would be completed within two weeks.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption A total of 18,000 security personnel were deployed to control the protest, which shut down central Jakarta

There have long been tensions around Mr Purnama political role.

In 2014, he was the deputy governor under Joko Widodo. When Mr Widodo was elected president the main group behind the current protest - Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) - did not want Mr Purnama to succeed him.

They argued that a Christian should not govern a Muslim-majority city. The campaign against him has since taken on anti-Chinese overtones, though the FPI said the rally was not about the governor being from a minority group.

Jakarta police said there were "provocative statements and images" on social media urging people to take violent action against Mr Purnama, including calls to kill him.

Despite being seen as brash and outspoken, the governor is popular among many in the capital and has been praised for his effectiveness.

Muslims in Indonesia are largely moderate and the country's largest Islamic organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama, had advised its 40 million members not to take part in the protest.

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