Jakarta protesters undeterred by arrests


Undeterred by the arrest of hard-line protest leaders, thousands of Muslims have marched in Indonesia's capital, repeating calls for the jailing of the city's minority Christian governor.

Following Friday prayers, the protesters marched from Istiqlal Mosque in central Jakarta to the nearby presidential palace, which was under heavy police guard.

The turnout for Friday's protest was small compared with the hundreds of thousands who answered the call of hard-line Islamic groups to flood central Jakarta for demonstrations in November, December and February.

Jakarta police's director of traffic Ermayudi Sumarsono estimated the crowd at 13,000 to 15,000.

Protests against Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama have snowballed since September when he was accused of blaspheming the Quran in connection with remarks he made about how people should vote.

His trial is still under way and he denies wrongdoing.

Earlier on Friday, Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono said five people had been arrested, including Muhammad Al Khaththath, a leader of the Islamic People's Forum (FUI), a hardline group that organised the rally.

"We are charging them with conspiring to commit treason," Yuwono told broadcaster TVOne.

"There were several findings, including a plan to occupy the Indonesian parliament."

Friday's rally was the latest in a series that have tested religious and ethnic tolerance in Indonesia, a secular nation with the world's largest Muslim population.

Vice-President Jusuf Kalla called on the protesters to respect the legal process and said they would not be allowed to dictate the agenda.

"No matter how much pressure there is, we will not follow it. The government is firm against this kind of pressure," Kalla said in an interview with Reuters, referring to the rallies.

"Wait for the court's final decision (on Purnama)," he said.