Posts Tagged ‘Jakarta’

Anti-Communist Mob Attacks Indonesia Meeting, 22 Arrested

September 18, 2017

JAKARTA, Indonesia — A mob opposed to public discussion of Indonesia’s 1965 massacre of communists tried to force its way into a Jakarta building where they believed communists were meeting, injuring five policemen.

Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono said 22 people were arrested early Monday for rioting and five officers were injured in the confrontation.

The melee came a day after police blockaded the building on Saturday to stop a public forum on the massacre, in which historians say half a million people were killed, from going ahead.

Bonnie Setiawan, an organizer of the forum, said about 200 people were trapped in the building, which is home to a legal aid institute, for hours on Sunday night while more than 1,000 people protested outside.

The protesters shouted that the people inside were members of the long-outlawed Indonesian Communist Party and threw rocks, breaking windows, he said.

Indonesia held a ground-breaking symposium on the massacre last year, breaking a half century of near silence on the issue, but the military, Islamic groups and senior figures in the government are opposed to unearthing the truth, saying it could revive communism.

The Indonesian Communist Party was the third largest in the world with an estimated 3 million members when an unsuccessful coup by pro-communist military officers in 1965 triggered a monthslong bloodletting by the army and Islamic groups that engulfed the country and ushered in the Suharto dictatorship.

Yuwono said police blockaded the forum on Saturday because organizers hadn’t requested permission for it.

Setiawan said police had violated the constitutional rights to freedom of association and assembly. The meeting on Sunday was intended as a discussion of challenges to democracy in Indonesia, he said.


Fake news about communism in Indonesia blamed for triggering riot in Jakarta

By Jewel Topsfield

Fake news about Indonesia’s omnipresent bogeyman – communism – has been blamed for riots in Central Jakarta that injured five police officers and damaged vehicles in the early hours of Monday morning.

Police were forced to fire tear gas and water cannons to disperse anti-communist protesters who began to pelt police with water bottles and stones and attempted to force their way into the offices of the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute.

A weekend seminar on the 1965 anti-communist purge – a dark chapter in Indonesia’s history that remains extremely sensitive today – had already been banned by police on the grounds the organisers had not applied for a permit.

But this did not stop crowds chanting “Crush the PKI” (the now defunct Indonesian communist party) and surrounding the institute building.

The Indonesian Legal Aid Institute claimed “clearly hoaxes or false news have been broadcast … with instructions for attacking (the institute) done systematically and extensively”.

It asserted false claims included that the planned historical seminar was a re-emergence of the PKI and participants intended to sing genjer-genjer, one of the most controversial songs in Indonesia.

Genjer-genjer, which was adopted as a protest song by the PKI, was banned under the Suharto regime, amid military claims that female communists had tortured six generals while singing the song.

“People said we are PKI – that’s the hoax,” Muhammad Isnur from the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute told Fairfax Media.

“They said PKI was holding an event. It’s not true. We wanted to hold an academic discussion about what happened in 1965.”

Police have arrested five people suspected of provoking the riots.

Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono told Fairfax Media that police had informed the institute that the planned seminar could not go ahead because the organisers did not have a permit.

But Mr Isnur said the police were “just making it up”. “Why would we need a permit for an internal, closed door discussion in our own office? We hold discussions every day.”

The 1965 tragedy was triggered by the kidnapping and murder of several high-ranking army officers, which was blamed on the PKI.

Last month Indonesian authorities disbanded a workshop in East Java on the findings of an international tribunal into the 1965 massacre – also on the grounds organisers didn’t have a permit.

In 2015 the Ubud Writers Festival cancelled sessions discussing 1965 – the first act of censorship in the history of the popular international event.

Amnesty International issued a statement last month saying there had been at least 39 cases since 2015 where authorities disbanded events related to 1965.

“These actions are a clear violation of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” Amnesty said.

Asked if hoax news had inflamed tensions at the weekend, Mr Argo said: “Listen, if people get together to make speeches, discussion, dialogue, they must notify the police, this should be understood by people who work in the legal business.”

Fake news was a huge problem in Indonesia in the lead-up to the gubernatorial election in February, with much of it targeting the ethnicity of former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama.

Hoax news included that Indonesia was being flooded by 10 million Chinese workers, that its new currency bore an image of the banned communist hammer and sickle, that Ahok’s free Human Papillomavirus vaccine program could make girls infertile and that China was waging biological warfare against Indonesia with contaminated chilli seeds.

Smear campaigns during the last presidential election also asserted President Joko Widodo was a Christian and communist.

“Don’t forget, negative (news), slander, reproaching each other, hoax and fake news are spreading in social media today. They also become our challenge in the future,” President Jokowi told a group of boys scouts in Central Java on Monday.

Last month police arrested three people accused of spreading hoaxes against President Jokowi and Ahok, among others, on a “news” website known as saracen, which allegedly charges clients to publish and spread fake news.

“There is clearly a growing industry around the production of disinformation (false information spread to deliberately deceive) in Indonesia and elsewhere around the world,” says Australian National University academic Ross Tapsell, an expert on social media in Indonesia.

“Of course, Indonesia has a long history of government and non-government anti-PKI propaganda designed to incite and enrage,” he said.

“So the material may not have changed, but the technology used to disseminate it is changing rapidly.”


Indonesian Woman Jailed for Suicide Bomb Plot at Jakarta Palace

August 28, 2017

JAKARTA — A Jakarta court has sentenced a female would-be suicide bomber to seven and a half years in prison, prosecutors and her lawyer said, the first time a woman has been convicted in Indonesia for planning such an attack.

Dian Yulia Novi, 28, was arrested late last year on suspicion of plotting to blow herself up outside Jakarta’s presidential palace during the changing of the guard. She was arrested along with her husband, Muhamad Nur Solikin.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, has seen a surge in homegrown militancy inspired by Islamic State, and has grappled with a series of small-scale attacks in the past two years.

Prosecutors had demanded a 10-year sentence for Novi, whom they said received instructions to carry out the attack from Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian militant believed to be fighting with Islamic State in Syria.

“Her sentence was reduced because she admitted to her actions,” Novi’s lawyer Kamsi told Reuters on Monday. He said the verdict was handed down by East Jakarta District Court on Aug. 25.

Judges delivered the verdict earlier than expected because Novi is pregnant and due to give birth in early September, her lawyer said. She is detained at a Jakarta area facility.

Her husband is on trial for the same plot. His next hearing, at which he is expected to enter a plea, is scheduled for Sept. 6.

Kamsi said Novi, who was believed to be radicalized through social media while employed as a domestic worker in Taiwan, did not intend to appeal her verdict.

Police said they had intercepted a letter that Novi intended to send to her parents stating her intention to carry out jihad. Later an unexploded bomb was found in a room the woman had rented in Bekasi, about an hour outside Jakarta.

Counter-terrorism forces are worried that militants may be using new and more sophisticated tactics to try and carry out attacks – like recruiting female suicide bombers or using dangerous chemicals to make “dirty bombs”.

(Reporting by Stefanno Reinard; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

Sending drug dealers to God is my business: Police Chief

August 9, 2017
  • Callistasia Anggun WijayaThe Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Tue, August 8, 2017 | 07:41 pm

Sending drug dealers to God is my business: Jakarta Police chief

Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Idham Azis (center) poses during an award ceremony held on Tuesday, Aug. 8 for police investigators who succeeded in foiling the smuggling of a record-breaking one ton of crystal methamphetamine, or sabu-sabu, in Anyer, Banten in July. (Antara/Reno Esnir)

The newly appointed Jakarta Police chief Insp.Gen. Idham Azis has vowed to combat drug dealers, especially those from other countries, and will take responsibility for his subordinates’ actions if they shoot alleged drug traffickers during raids.

“If the drug dealers want to apologize, it is their business with God. Sending them to God, on the other hand, is my business,” Idham said at the Jakarta Police headquarters on Tuesday.

Idham, who was inaugurated as the Jakarta Police chief on July 26, expressed his appreciation to the team of investigators that thwarted the record-breaking smuggling attempt of one ton of crystal methamphetamine, locally known as sabu-sabu, in Anyer, Banten last month. In the raid, investigators arrested three Taiwanese nationals and shot dead another alleged to have resisted arrest.

He asserted that he would also dismiss his subordinates if they failed to handle the mass drug trafficking in the capital.

Under his leadership, he said he would give all drug units in all police precincts under the Jakarta Police’s authority a month to crack down on drug dealers.

“There will be no compromises. If the drug unit chiefs cannot enforce the law against drug dealers, I will replace them,” he said.

Greater Jakarta has the highest demand for drugs of all provinces in the country, according to the National Narcotics Agency (BNN). The National Police announced that Indonesia had become the main target of international drug syndicates following tougher anti-drug policies imposed by neighboring countries like the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia. (wnd)

East Jakarta suicide bombers linked to ISIS — Police say weakened local extremist outfits could get a new lease of life as fighters flee Iraq, Syria

May 25, 2017


Image may contain: 2 people, selfie and closeup

Ichwan Nurul Salam (right) and Solihin, the suspected Jakarta bombers. Police are trying to verify the personal details of the suspects.PHOTO: INDONESIA POLICE

JAKARTA – The two suspects who killed three policemen at a bus terminal in East Jakarta on Wednesday (May 24) night in a suicide-bombing had ties to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the police said on Thursday (May 25).

Police spokesmen told a briefing the militants, who were killed in the twin blasts, had links to ISIS, and the bombs they used were low-grade explosives similar to the type used in a February attack in Bandung which was also linked to ISIS.

The first bomb was detonated outside a public toilet late on Wednesday, and the second near a bus stop some 10 metres away, police spokesman Inspector-General Setyo told reporters.

Police found an invoice dated May 22 from a store in Padalarang, West Java, for the purchase of a pressure cooker at the site, he said, as well as aluminum plates, nails, ball bearings, cable-switcher, and other bomb-making materials.

Insp-Gen Setyo said the attack is similar to the Bandung one, which was launched by a lone militant whom authorities suspected of having links to a radical network sympathetic to ISIS.

Earlier on Thursday a police source had told The Straits Times the Jakarta attackers were also linked to extremists in Poso, Central Sulawesi.

The source identified the first suspect as Solihin, an administrative staff at the Darul Anshor, an Islamic boarding school in Poso, and the other as Ichwan Nurul Salam, a 34-year-old man from Bandung, West Java.

Police are still verifying the personal information of the alleged attackers, the source added.

President Joko Widodo condemned the attack on Thursday.

“This is execrable. Ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver fell victim, public minivan driver, store sellers, as well as policemen,” Mr Joko told reporters in his hometown in Central Java, referring to the three slain police officers and 11 others injured, the presidential palace said in a statement.

The number of injured was previously given as 10.

While the police believe the suspects had ties to extremists in Central Sulawesi, counter-terrorism investigators are trying to establish if they were also linked to the remnants of the East Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) militant group which operates out of Poso.

The MIT is behind several terror attacks in Indonesia since 2012, including skirmishes with security forces during which police officers and people in Central Sulawesi were killed.

MIT leader Santoso, also known as Abu Wardah, and another MIT combatant, were killed in the fire-fight last year. Santoso and his men from MIT had pledged allegiance to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Three Indonesian policemen were killed and five other officers were injured after the two suspects allegedly set off what was believed to be a pressure cooker bomb near a bus terminal in Kampung Melayu, in East Jakarta, at about 9pm local time on Wednesday.

It appeared that the bombing followed a similar pattern of attack by domestic militants targeting local police officers in Indonesia.

The policemen had assembled to escort a scheduled parade organised by a community group in the neighbourhood when the explosion was heard, said the police.

It also came just three days before the Muslim fasting month begins on Saturday.

On July 5 last year, just days before fasting month was to end, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle blew himself up after he was stopped by officers from entering the local police headquarters in Solo city.

The bomber had used low-grade explosives in the homemade bomb, which like most improvised explosive devices (IEDs), contained ball-bearings and screws, and was trying to attack the policemen as they reported for their shift.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, has long struggled with Islamic militancy. Hundreds of radicals from the South-east Asian state have flocked to Syria to fight with ISIS, sparking fears that weakened extremist outfits could get a new lease of life.

Indonesia probes ‘IS-linked’ suicide attack on police — Philippine Police chief beheaded, President Declares Martial Law — Philippine troops enter Marawi

May 25, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s elite anti-terror squad was on Thursday (May 25) investigating a suicide bombing near a Jakarta bus station that killed three policemen in an assault authorities believe is linked to the Islamic State group.

President Joko Widodo appealed for calm after two suicide attackers unleashed carnage outside the busy terminal late Wednesday, sending huge clouds of black smoke into the sky and panicked people fleeing.

Three policemen were killed, while six other officers and five civilians were injured in an assault that left body parts and shattered glass strewn across the road. The bombers also died.

Police said they believed there was a link between the attackers and the Islamic State (IS) group, without giving further details. Hundreds of Indonesians have flocked abroad to fight with the militants and IS-supporting militants have been behind a series of recent plots and attacks in the archipelago.

The bus station bombing was the deadliest attack in Indonesia since January 2016, when a suicide blast and gun assault claimed by IS in downtown Jakarta left four attackers and four civilians dead.

In a televised address on Thursday, Widodo said he had ordered a thorough probe and was “urging all citizens across the nation to stay calm and remain united”.

“I convey my deepest condolences to the victims and their families – especially the police officers who passed away while performing their duty,” he added.

© AFP | Indonesian police guard a checkpoint in Jakarta

The main investigation was handed over early on Thursday to the police’s elite anti-terror squad Densus 88, which has played a leading role in tracking down and killing some of Indonesia’s most wanted militants.

Police believe they were specifically targeted in the bombing as they prepared to provide security for a parade near the Kampung Melayu terminal, which is an area frequented by locals but not foreigners.

Security forces have been the main target in recent years of Indonesian militants, who have largely turned their attention away from Westerners.

Asked whether there was a link between IS and the group behind the attack, national police spokesman Awi Setyono responded “yes there is”, without giving further details.

Police have not yet named the two dead suspects but a law enforcement source, who spoke on condition of anonymity to Reuters, said they may have been linked to Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), an umbrella organisation on a US State Department “terrorist” list that is estimated to have drawn hundreds of IS sympathisers in Indonesia.


Wasisto would not be drawn on which group could be behind the attack, but he confirmed the bombs were made out of pressure cookers. Authorities said along with body parts, they found explosive materials, switchers, an identity card and a receipt for a cooking pot.

A pressure cooker bomb was used in an attack in the city of Bandung in February carried out by a militant from JAD, which has been blamed for a string of recent assaults.

In a media briefing on Thursday afternoon, a police spokesman said that the double bomb blasts in the Indonesian capital bears similarity with the Bandung bombing on Feb 27.

In that incident, an attacker set off an improvised bomb made from a pressure cooker in a park, before fleeing. No one was injured in the blast. The alleged attacker then died in a gunfight with security forces the following day.

Another police spokesman, Setyo Wasisto, added terror cells “might have been inspired to carry out an attack” by recent assaults in Britain and the Philippines.

Twenty-two people, including children, were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a pop concert in Manchester on Monday. In the Philippines, troops are locked in intense battles with militants who rampaged through the mainly Muslim city of Marawi.

Police said the first bomb in the latest Jakarta attack was detonated at 9pm (1400 GMT) in an area where police officers were on duty. Five minutes later the second bomber struck about 10 metres (32 feet) away.

Local media said the event that the officers were preparing to guard was a torch parade traditionally held before the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which begins this weekend. he Kampung Melayu terminal is a local hub served by minibuses and buses.

Indonesia has long struggled with Islamic militancy and has suffered a series of attacks in the past 15 years, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.

A sustained crackdown weakened the most dangerous networks but the emergence of IS has proved a potent new rallying cry for radicals.

Source: CNA/Agencies/rw


Philippines troops enter Marawi as insurgents take hostages, raise Islamic State flag

Philippines government troops crouch on the ground and prepare to fire their weapons.

Gunfire and explosions have rung out as army tanks packed with soldiers rolled into the southern Philippine city of Marawi in an effort to repel Islamist insurgents.

Key points:

  • Militants seized more than a dozen hostages and raised ISIS flag
  • Duterte warned he would expand martial law to the rest of the country
  • At least 21 people killed and thousands have evacuated the city

The soldiers made their advance after militants linked to the Islamic State (IS) group torched buildings, seized more than a dozen Catholic hostages and raised the black flag of IS.

At least 21 people have died in fighting that erupted late on Tuesday, when the army raided the Marawi hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, who is on Washington’s list of most wanted terrorists and has a $6.67 million bounty on his head.

The operation was not a success as the militants called in reinforcements and swept through the mostly Muslim city of 200,000 people.

Hapilon’s whereabouts was not clear and there was no indication he was captured in the raid.

Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across the southern third of the nation — home to some 22 million people — and warned he may expand it nationwide.

Mr Duterte vowed to be “harsh”.

“If I think that you should die, you will die,” he said on Wednesday.

“If you fight us, you will die. If there is open defiance, you will die. And if it means many people dying, so be it.”

A line of packed cars drives up the road out of Marawi City.

The growing influence of ISIS

As details of the attack in Marawi city emerged, fears mounted that the largest Roman Catholic nation in Asia could be falling into a growing list of countries grappling with the spread of influence from the ISIS group in Syria and Iraq.

Thousands of people were fleeing the city on Thursday, jamming their belongings into cars.

Plumes of black smoke rose in the distance and two air force helicopters could be seen flying over the city centre.

Who are the Maute?

  • The Maute group an armed Muslim group that’s pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.
  • Hapilon was reportedly designated the leader of the alliance.
  • The Maute has been blamed for a bomb attack that killed 15 people in southern Davao city, Duterte’s hometown, last September.
  • Last month, troops killed dozens of Maute militants and captured their jungle camp near Lanao del Sur’s Piagapo town.
  • Troops found homemade bombs, grenades, combat uniforms and passports of suspected Indonesian militants in the camp, the military said.

Although much of the city is sealed off, disturbing details were trickling out.

Mr Duterte said a local police chief was stopped at a militant checkpoint and beheaded.

Military chief of staff General Eduardo Ano said the militants erected IS flags at several locations.

Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Pena said the militants forced their way into the Marawi Cathedral and seized a Catholic priest, 10 worshippers and three church workers.

Hapilon, an Arabic-speaking Islamic preacher known for his expertise in commando assaults, pledged allegiance to IS in 2014.

He is a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group and was wounded by a military airstrike in January.

While pursuing peace talks with two large Muslim rebel groups in the south, Mr Duterte has ordered the military to destroy smaller extremist groups which have tried to align with the IS group.

At least one of those smaller groups, the Maute, was involved in the Marawi siege.

It is one of less than a dozen new armed Muslim groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIS and formed a loose alliance, with Hapilon reportedly designated as the alliance’s leader.

On Wednesday, Mr Duterte met with Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, where they discussed the crisis in the Philippines.

Mr Duterte asked Mr Putin about the possibility of buying guns from Russia, as a planned shipment of 26,000 rifles from the US had been halted last November.

“The arms we ordered from America [was] cancelled,” Mr Duterte said.

“I’m having a problem with ISIS, there’s a rebellion.”

After the US backed out of the deal Mr Duterte labelled those behind the decision “fools” and “monkeys” and indicated that he might accept weapons from Russia and China.

“Russia, they are inviting us. China also. China is open, anything you want, they sent me brochure saying we select there, we’ll give you,” he said in November.

“But I am holding off because I was asking the military if they have any problem. Because if you have, if you want to stick to America, fine.

“But, look closely and balance the situation, they are rude to us.”


Topics: world-politics, terrorism, unrest-conflict-and-war, philippines, asia, russian-federation, united-states


 (with links to related reports)

Two blasts at bus terminal in Indonesian capital, casualties

May 24, 2017


© AFP | Indonesian police guard a checkpoint in Jakarta


Two blasts rocked a bus terminal in the Indonesian capital Jakarta on Wednesday and caused casualties, police said.

“There were two blasts at around 9:00 pm (1400 GMT), close to each other, there are three victims,” East Jakarta police chief Andry Wibowo told TV station MetroTV, without saying whether the victims had been killed or injured.

“From the damage I can see the explosions were pretty big.” It was not immediately clear what caused the blasts at the Kampung Melayu terminal, which is served by minibuses and buses.

An eyewitness, Sultan Muhammad Firdaus, told TV station Kompas TV he heard two explosions about 10 minutes apart.

“The explosions were quite loud, I could hear them clearly,” he said. He added he thought two police officers were injured in the blast.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, has long struggled with Islamic militancy and hundreds of radicals from the Southeast Asian state have flocked to fight with IS, sparking fears that weakened extremist outfits could get a new lease of life.

A gun and suicide attack in Jakarta left four attackers and four civilians dead in January last year, and was the first assault claimed by the Islamic State group in Southeast Asia.

Indonesia has suffered a series of Islamic militant attacks in the past 15 years, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.

A sustained crackdown weakened the most dangerous networks but the emergence of IS has proved a potent new rallying cry for radicals.

Dollar extends losses as Trump crisis fuels fears for agenda

May 17, 2017


© AFP | While the White House has denied any wrongdoing over claims Donald Trump urged then-FBI director James Comey to drop a probe, markets are worried it could throw the president’s agenda off-track

HONG KONG (AFP) – The dollar sank Wednesday with a fresh crisis in the White House fuelling concerns that Donald Trump’s economy-boosting agenda could be run off-track.

The administration was once again rocked by allegations over its links to Russia after it emerged the tycoon had divulged classified information to the nation’s foreign minister.

That was followed late Tuesday by claims by recently fired FBI boss James Comey that Trump pressed him to drop a probe into ex-national security advisor Michael Flynn over his links to Moscow.

While the Oval Office has furiously denied any wrongdoing, there is a growing sense of crisis that could even lead to the president’s impeachment, throwing into doubt his plans for tax cuts, big spending and red tape slashing.

Bets that the plan would fire the economy helped fan a dollar and global equities rally in the months after Trump’s election.

“There has been a lot of focus on the US president who admitted that he did share information with Russia,” said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

“But what’s potentially important for markets in the weeks and months ahead is that the president’s apparent missteps may galvanise his opponents, which could make it harder to implement his economic agenda.”

– Difficult to buy –

The dollar took a beating in New York and extended the losses Wednesday. The euro was flirting with $1.11, a level not seen since Trump’s election win in November, while the yen is also piling pressure on the US unit. The dollar bought 112.67 yen, down from levels above 114 yen seen last week.

“At the very least the view is that Trump?s economic policies will be delayed over this, and the dollar is being sold,” Tomoichiro Kubota, an analyst at Matsui Securities in Tokyo, told Bloomberg News.

“At the moment there?s a strong sense of investors trying to gauge how far this will go. It’s a situation where you can’t completely rule out the possibility of impeachment down the road, so it?s difficult for investors to buy.”

A series of below-par economic readings out of Washington are also adding to dollar selling, while the euro is growing more attractive as political uncertainty in Europe abates and indicators point to a healthy pick-up in growth.

On equities markets Tokyo was down 0.5 percent by the break as the stronger yen weighed on exporters, while Sydney shed 0.8 percent and Seoul sank 0.1 percent.

Hong Kong and Shanghai were marginally lower, while Singapore, Taipei and Jakarta all retreated.

The losses came despite another record close in London and New York.

– Key figures around 0230 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.5 percent at 19,822.19 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: FLAT at 25,335.68

Shanghai – Composite: FLAT at 3,112.61

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1099 from $1.1084 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 112.60 yen from 113.07 yen

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2922 from $1.2918

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 57 cents at $48.09 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN 54 cents at $51.11 per barrel

New York – Dow: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 20,979.75 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.9 percent at 7,522.03 points (close)

Indonesia faces calls to repeal blasphemy laws after jailing of Jakarta governor Ahok

May 10, 2017

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Supporters of former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, gather at city hall in Jakarta, Indonesia on May 10, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesia is facing renewed calls to repeal its controversial blasphemy law after the jailing of Jakarta’s Christian governor, with critics pointing to a sharp increase in its use to target minorities.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama – known by his nickname Ahok – was jailed for two years on Tuesday (May 9) for blasphemy over comments he made about Islam while campaigning for re-election to the capital of the Muslim-majority nation, a far harsher sentence than had been expected.

Critics viewed the case as unfair and politically motivated. The allegations were pushed by hardliners who opposed a non-Muslim as governor, and sparked a series of mass protests that dented Basuki’s popularity and contributed to him losing the race for the Jakarta governorship to a Muslim rival last month.

The allegations against Basuki centred on a lighthearted remark he made about his rivals using a verse from the Quran to trick people into voting against him, which judges ruled amounted to blasphemy against Islam.

The blasphemy legislation has been on the statute books since 1965 but was rarely used before 1998, when three decades of authoritarian rule under brutal dictator Suharto – who sought to run the country along largely secular lines – came to an end.

His downfall brought with it new democratic freedoms and increased interest in more conservative forms of Islam. But it also gave space for the growth of hardline Muslim groups and an increase in attacks on religious minorities, fuelling concerns that the country’s inclusive brand of Islam was under threat.

Activists say the growing use of the blasphemy law curbs free speech and is one example of minorities coming under increased pressure. Local rights group the Setara Institute said of the 97 blasphemy cases brought to court since the law was enacted, 89 of them were since 1998.


Phelim Kine, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, said Basuki’s conviction made him “exhibit A of the law’s danger and the urgent need for its repeal”.

“The blasphemy law has been used to prosecute and imprison members of religious minorities and traditional religions,” he said.

Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s director for South-east Asia and the Pacific, criticised the “inherent injustice of Indonesia’s blasphemy law, which should be repealed immediately”, while the United Nations urged a review of the legislation.

A recent case was the jailing in March of three leaders of a banned sect called Gafatar under the blasphemy law, with the men accused of luring followers to practise a deviant brand of Islam.

Another example was in 2012 when Tajul Muluk, a cleric from the Shi’ite Muslim minority, was sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy, with judges saying that his teachings deviated from mainstream Islam.

The blasphemy law states that anyone found guilty of “expressing feelings of hostility” towards religion can be jailed for up to five years. It applies to any of the six officially recognised religions in Indonesia but in reality most prosecutions are brought against people accused of blaspheming Islam.

About 90 per cent of Indonesia’s 255 million people are Muslim but most practise a moderate form of Islam and the country is also home to substantial minorities of Christians, Hindus and Buddhists.

Despite growing pressure to repeal the law, this seems unlikely to be any time soon.

Religious affairs ministry spokesman Matsuki, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, conceded there were concerns of misuse but said the government wanted to improve the legislation rather than axe it.

“If we abolished it, more problems would arise,” he told AFP. “If blasphemy happens and we have no guidelines, there will be chaos.”


Indonesia Hard-Liners Call for Jailing of Christian Governor — “Ahok, the blasphemer of Islam, must be jailed.”

May 5, 2017

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Thousands of conservative Muslims took to the streets of the Indonesian capital on Friday to call for the jailing of its minority Christian governor who is on trial on charges of blaspheming the Quran.

At least several thousand white-robed protesters marched after Friday prayers at Istiqlal Mosque in central Jakarta until reaching the nearby Supreme Court building.

The protest comes just days before a district court announces its verdict in Gov. Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama’s blasphemy trial.

Some of the protesters held flags, banners and placards that said “Justice must be upheld” and “Ahok, the blasphemer of Islam, must be jailed.”

Prosecutors last month recommended a two-year suspended prison sentence for Ahok. The relatively light sentencing demand was made a day after Ahok was defeated by a landslide election victory for a Muslim rival backed by conservative clerics. Ahok’s term as governor ends in October.

The maximum penalty for blasphemy in Muslim-majority Indonesia is five years in prison. Prosecutors recommended one-year prison if Ahok violates his probation.

“We are here because we are disappointed with prosecutors who were blind and deaf to the aspirations of Muslims,” said Bahruddin Rabbani, an Islamic boarding school teacher from Banten, a neighboring province of Jakarta.

Ahok was accused of blasphemy last year when a video surfaced of him telling voters they were being deceived if they believed a specific verse in the Quran prohibited Muslims from electing a non-Muslim as leader.

Hard-line Islamic groups have attracted hundreds of thousands to anti-Ahok protests in Jakarta, shaking the government of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and undermining Indonesia’s reputation for practicing a moderate form of Islam.

“We believe that Ahok’s use of our holy Quran for political campaigning constituted blasphemy,” said another protester, Ahmad Salman. “We want to see the blasphemer of Islam in jail.”

A verdict from the five-judge panel is expected on Tuesday.

Pence praises moderate Islam in Indonesia in bid to heal divisions

April 20, 2017


© POOL/AFP | US Vice President Mike Pence (L) listens to Indonesian President Joko Widodo during their meeting at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta

JAKARTA (AFP) – US Vice President Mike Pence Thursday praised Indonesia’s moderate form of Islam as “an inspiration” at the start of a visit to the Muslim-majority country seen as a bid by his administration to heal divisions with the Islamic world.

It came ahead of a visit by Pence to the largest mosque in Indonesia, which has the world’s biggest Muslim population, where he will hold a multi-faith dialogue.

His visit represents the most high-profile outreach to Muslims by the Donald Trump administration since the brash billionaire came to office and echoes a similar trip by Barack and Michelle Obama in 2010.

Since becoming president almost 100 days ago, Trump has hosted leaders from majority-Muslim Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

But his administration has also tried to ban travellers from several Muslim-majority nations, citing concerns about terrorism — an effort currently being challenged in US courts.

As a presidential candidate, Trump often appeared to flirt with the far right as he railed against “radical Islamic terrorism”.

Pence arrived at the presidential palace in Jakarta for talks with Indonesian President Joko Widodo to a colourful official welcome by hundreds of schoolchildren in regional dress.

Indonesia, where most practice a moderate form of Islam, has long been held up as an example of a successful Muslim democracy where followers of the faith live largely peacefully alongside religious minorities.

After talks with Widodo, Pence said: “Indonesia’s tradition of moderate Islam is frankly an inspiration to the world and we commend you and your people.

“In your nation as in mine, religion unifies, it doesn?t divide.”

– Tolerant Islam under threat –

But his optimistic words came as Indonesia’s traditionally inclusive Islam is under threat from the rising influence of hardliners and an increasing trend towards more conservative forms of the faith.

On Wednesday Jakarta’s Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama was defeated in a run-off election to lead the capital by a Muslim challenger who was accused of pandering to hardliners to win votes.

Purnama, known by his nickname Ahok, lost after his once-unassailable lead in opinion polls was dented by allegations he committed blasphemy, claims that sparked mass protests led by radical groups but were seen by his supporters as unfair and politically motivated.

Pence is currently on a tour of South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Australia that is aimed at smoothing some of the rougher edges of Trump’s rhetoric.

In South Korea and Japan, Pence played down protectionist declarations of “America first” and reaffirmed US treaty commitments to the security of the two countries as tensions rise over Pyongyang’s nuclear programme.

Pence’s Muslim outreach in Indonesia has been welcomed locally, with Maruf Amin, the head of the Indonesian Ulema Council, the country’s top Muslim clerical body, saying he hopes that it “indicates a change in attitude” towards Islam.

But it is unlikely to be enough to assuage fears that the Trump administration is anti-Islam.

“President Trump’s hostile pronouncements on Islam and Muslims have done considerable damage to his reputation in the Islamic world. It would take more than a visit to repair the damage,” said Fawaz Gerges, an expert on the Middle East and Islam from the London School of Economics.

After his talks with Widodo, Pence also said that the US was committed to building a stronger defence partnership with Indonesia to combat the threat of terrorism.

Indonesia has long struggled with Islamic militancy, and in January last year suffered a suicide and gun attack claimed by the Islamic State group that left four assailants and four civilians dead.

He also pledged to uphold the “fundamental freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea. Indonesian and Chinese vessels have clashed repeatedly in recent times in waters near Indonesia’s Natuna Islands, on the fringes of the disputed waters.

Widodo, who wants more foreign investment as he seeks to boost Southeast Asia’s top economy, said the leaders had focused on “the US commitment to enhance the strategic partnership with Indonesia, focusing on cooperation and investment”.