Indonesia coup suspects freed

Muslim protesters demand the removal of Jakarta’s governor this month. Source: YouTube

Indonesian police said they have freed eight people who were detained for suspected treason and other crimes. The authorities said they were continuing to probe the eight, who included well-known public figures, and that three other suspects had been arrested were still in custody.

They were arrested shortly before the second major protest by conservative Muslims against the ethnic-Chinese Christian governor of Jakarta. Friday’s rally attracted around 200,000 Muslim protesters and ended peacefully.

The police said the group planned to use the protest to occupy parliament and force MPs to overthrow President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

National Police Spokesman Inspector General Boy Rafli Amar said the group had been meeting for at least three weeks and their detention was a “preventative” measure.

Amar said those freed included Rachmawati, the daughter of Indonesia’s founding president and the sister of ex-president Megawati Sukarnoputri. A retired army general, Kivlan Zein, and prominent activist Ratna Sarumpaet were also released.

Amar said the arrests were not an attempt to gag the opposition.

“We don’t want huge mass mobilisation to be manipulated by certain people,” Amar told the media.

The arrests come after November’s violent protest against Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, normally referred to as Ahok, over comments he made referring to the Koran.

The demonstration on November 4 started peacefully but ended in violence with water cannon and tear gas used. Hundreds  were injured and several police vehicles set on fire. Widodo blamed “political actors” for taking advantage of the demonstration to gain cynical advantages.

Ahok faces a three-way against former education minister Anies Baswedan and Agus Yudhoyono, the son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The election is due in February.

He is set to face a court hearing before the election day over the allegations he committed blasphemy when referring to the Koran in his September speech.