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Tensions high in Jakarta before final round of governor election

ABC News - April 11, 2017

Samantha Hawley, Indonesia The highlands of west Java provide a calmness that can't be found in the Indonesian capital.

Puncak is a haven away from the bustling, traffic-ridden city, renowned as a weekend sanctuary for Jakartans about 90 kilometres south of the capital.

It's also home to the leader of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), firebrand cleric Habib Rizieq, who's been leading a divisive campaign against the capital's Christian governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as "Ahok".

For the first time a foreign television crew managed to enter the conservative cleric's compound within the hills of Puncak. Heavily fortified and guarded, 7.30 was given access to the grounds as the program sought an interview with the FPI founder.

Unexpectedly the guards at the first checkpoint allowed the ABC crew to drive deep into the forest where the compound sits. A winding, muddy road led to an Islamic boarding school.

From the surrounding buildings Mr Rizieq runs his campaign against Ahok, a campaign that led to mass protests on the streets of Jakarta last year. His ultimate aim is for Sharia law to be implemented across Indonesia.

Once inside the confines of the FPI base, the presence of 7.30 was no longer welcome.

"Go away from here, do you want your camera broken?" a relative of Mr Rizieq and the owner of the land threatened. "If you leave from here in good behaviour, in gods will you'll be saved."

We left without our interview, the so-called guards stopping us and searching our equipment, and ordering us to delete our vision. They think we did.

Campaign against Ahok

Mr Rizieq's FPI and other radical Islamic groups want Ahok jailed on blasphemy charges for which he is currently being tried in the North Jakarta District Court. He faces up to five years in prison if found guilty.

The trial has been adjourned until after next Wednesday's election. Prosecutors had been scheduled to outline their sentencing demand but Jakarta's police chief warned it could lead to further unrest on the streets and asked for a delay.

Ahok is from a double minority being Christian and ethnic Chinese. The conservative Islamic groups say the Koran prohibits Muslims from voting for a Christian leader.

Humphrey Djemat is Ahok's chief defender. During Ahok's trial the lawyer alleged that 12 witnesses who reported his client to police for comments he made about the Koran can be linked to Mr Rizieq's FPI.

He told 7.30 that on one particular day they even wore the exact same type of shoes to court. "Which means someone entertained them before they went to court," Mr Djemat said.

Mr Djemat alleges that while FPI operates in the field, someone else has been funding the campaign against Ahok from behind the scenes. "To eliminate Ahok from contesting in the election for Jakarta," he said.

The former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) has repeatedly denied allegations he was funding the antagonists.

In February his son, Agus Yudhoyono, failed in his bid to become governor, receiving just 17 per cent of the vote in the first round of the gubernatorial election.

But there was evidence before the court that on October 7 last year SBY telephoned Jakarta's peak clerical body, the Ulema Council or MUI. Ahok's lawyers allege that during this phone call SBY ordered the MUI to issue a fatwa supporting the charge of blasphemy against Ahok.

"We are not interested regarding about the involvement of SBY, what we are focusing on is about his fatwa. Is it originally from MUI or from another party, which has a state in a political agenda?" Mr Djemat said.

'Maybe there will be a revolution'

With Agus Yudhoyono out of the race, Ahok will come up against Muslim Anies Baswedan in the second and final round of voting next week.

Mr Baswedan and his running mate Sandiaga Uno, who is one of Indonesia's richest men, surged in the polls after a meeting with Mr Riziek. But they deny seeking the radical Islamic vote.

"We accepted all invitations and in that particular instance we got invitations from leaders of FPI and it created so much attention that it created a notion that we are starting to lean to the right," Mr Uno told the ABC. "As potential leaders of 10 million people we have to really unite the city."

Maman Suryadi, who leads an FPI protest outside the court each time it sits for the Ahok trial, said if the incumbent governor wins the election and is not jailed, the mass protests seen last year will begin again. "Maybe there will be a revolution, as simple as that," he said.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-11/tensions-high-in-jakarta-before-governor-election-ahok/8435282.

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