Thousands of demonstrators in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, marched yesterday to protest against the alleged persecution of innocent Muslims in the name of security.
Around 10,000 protesters, most of them dressed in conservative Islamic attire, chanted “Free innocent Muslims” at the rally in Solo in Central Java, the hometown of alleged terrorist leader Abu Bakar Bashir.
They accused the authorities of arresting at least 18 Muslims solely because of their faith and pressure from the US.
“We regret the inhuman and illegal action done by national police in detaining some Muslim activists,” said Didik Hermawan, 28, a member of the Justice Party for Welfare, which sponsored the demonstration. “They violated the law.”
Indonesia has defended the arrests, saying all the suspects have either been linked to past attacks or were part of a group planning bombings. New anti-terrorism law allows police to hold suspected terrorists for up to six months without charging them.
Authorities have accused the 18 detainees of plotting to blow up a police station in Jakarta. Some of them are also accused of hiding suspects in last month’s bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta and last year’s nightclub bombings on the island of Bali.
The October 12 Bali bombings killed 202 people including 89 Australians, while 12 people died in the Marriott blast. Both attacks have been blamed on Jemaah Islamiyah, an Al-Qaeda-linked militant group believed to have cells throughout South-East Asia.
Bashir is allegedly the spiritual leader of the group. Earlier this month, a court sentenced him to four years’ jail for sedition but found him innocent of charges he was the JI leader.