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Thousands of protesters demand jail for former president's daughter

Sydney Morning Herald - April 6, 2018

James Massola & Karuni Rompies, Jakarta Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of central Jakarta to demand the daughter of the country's first president be jailed for blasphemy against Islam.

In a poem read at an Indonesian fashion show last week Sukmawati Sukarnoputri the daughter of former president Sukarno and sister of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri allegedly denigrated the adzan, or call to prayer, and suggested a traditional Indonesian hair bun is prettier than the full-faced veil worn by strict Muslims.

The reading of the poem, titled Mother Indonesia, has caused at least 14 groups to file a formal complaint with police under the country's broad but ill-defined blasphemy laws.

Sukmawati has read the poem publicly at least ten times since it was written 19 years ago but this is the first time it has attracted accusations of blasphemy.

The accusation of blasphemy has drawn comparisons with the case of the Christian former governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, widely known as Ahok, who was jailed for blasphemy in May 2017.

Sukmawati has met with a series of senior clerics from some of Indonesia's major Islamic organisations including the Muhammadiyah who have accepted her apology since the complaints were made.

She has also delivered several public apologies, but the controversy has not died down.

And on Friday, at least 3000 to 4000 protesters converged on a police station in Gambir, central Jakarta, to demand Sukmawati be investigated by police and jailed.

The mostly male crowd carried banners and chanted "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) and also chanted "arrest Busuk [Sukmawati], arrest Busuk right now". They also held aloft banners demanding Sukmawati be jailed and waved Palestinian flags.

Thirteen of the protesters later met with central Jakarta's police chief. After the meeting one of the leaders of the protest, Slamet Ma'arif from the 212 protest movement that brought hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets to protest against Ahok told TV One the point of the protest was to remind police this was not an insignificant case.

"Personally, we accept the apology [from Sukmawati] however legal processes should not stop," he said.

"I remind the police that if the police treat the Ibu [Mrs] Sukmawati case the way the police treated Ahok's then most likely what has happened in our beloved country, in Jakarta, will be repeated," in an apparent threat that larger protests will follow if the police do not act.

"The only way is to uphold justice, the law must be upheld. Summon [her], process [her], jail [her]."

Sixteen-year-old Alidila still wearing his school uniform joined the protest with a handful of school friends on Friday afternoon. He told Fairfax Media that Sukmawati had insulted Islam and "I want her to be jailed and for her to apologise to Muslims".

When it was pointed out that Sukmawati had apologised several times, Alidila said that was not enough for him.

Mansur, who declined to give his real name, said Sukmawati should not have compared the adzan to anything because "there is the name of Allah in adzan. You cannot compare adzan to anything". Sukmawati's case should be treated as Ahok's case had been treated and she should potentially be jailed, he said.

"As Muslims we already accepted her apology. However we feel that there is an element of religious blasphemy [in her poem]. It's related to article 156a [criminal code article 156a covers blasphemy]. We want it to be processed like the previous blasphemy case [of Ahok]."

The protests took place against the backdrop of looming local elections, which will be held in June, and the Presidential election which is due in April 2019.

Sukmawati's sister, Megawati, is still the chair of the PDI-P, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's party.

The call to prosecute Sukmawati for blasphemy has been interpreted by allies of President Joko as an indirect attack on him and his ruling party.

Religious identity played a major part in the 2014 presidential election and it looks increasingly likely that it will do so again in 2019.

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/thousands-of-protesters-demand-jail-for-former-president-s-daughter-20180406-p4z896.html.

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