Members of the Muslim groups behind last Friday’s protest in Jakarta planned to overthrow President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s government, says Indonesian police.
Five men were nabbed on Friday morning on charges of treason, ahead of the mass demonstration calling for the city’s sitting Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama to be removed and arrested for alleged blasphemy.
Police say the men met numerous times to discuss staging a coup against Jokowi after Jakarta’s April 19 runoff election. Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono said during meetings the suspects had discussed obtaining Rp3 billion (US$225,000), reports The Jakarta Globe.
Suspects detained include Muhammad Al Khaththath, the leader of the so-called Islamic People’s Forum (FUI), who have spearheaded protests against Ahok since last year.
While earlier mass demonstrations had seen huge crowds of up to a million take to Central Jakarta’s streets, Friday’s event attracted only an estimated 13,000 to 15,000 people.
Jakarta’s gubernatorial race is widely perceived as a proxy war ahead of the nation’s 2019 presidential elections.
Ahok was formally Jokowi’s deputy until the latter was elected president in 2014, when Ahok became governor. They remain political allies, which has led commentators to suggest that action against the incumbent is really aimed at getting rid of Jokowi.
Radical groups such as the FUI and Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) have rallied against Ahok since 2012 on the basis of his Chinese ethnicity and Christian faith. Meanwhile, Jokowi was recently accused of “promoting secularism” calling for the separation of religion and politics.
The gubernatorial race has flared political tensions in Indonesia, a diverse country with a turbulent history of interethnic and religious violence. Riots in Jakarta in 1998 targeted Chinese businesses, with victims raped and killed by looters.
Despite large scale Muslim demonstrations against the incumbent, however, Ahok still won a slim majority of Jakarta’s Muslim-majority vote with 43 percent in February.
It was also announced this week that Jokowi and Ahok will both inaugurate the capital’s first city-owned mosque, Masjid Raya Daan Mogot in West Jakarta, just days prior to the second round gubernatorial election.
Meanwhile, the final day of Ahok’s blasphemy trial was on Tuesday. The governor was set to give evidence for the first time during the proceedings.