Jakarta. Thousands began to disperse from the streets late on Friday (05/05) evening after a largely peaceful Muslim protest said to be the "peak" of a series of massive rallies against outgoing Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, police said.
White-clad Muslims headed back from roads leading to the Supreme Court to nearby Istiqlal Mosque, the starting point for the demonstration that police said ended without any major security disturbances.
"The situation in general has been calm. The protesters have gradually dispersed. They've stuck to their commitment not to do anything criminal," Jakarta Police Chief Insp. Gen. Mochamad Iriawan said.
Protest leaders briefly met with Supreme Court officials in an attempt to demand a heavy sentence for Ahok during the demonstration, which came just four days before the North Jakarta District Court hands down a verdict for Ahok.
"The discussions in the Supreme Court have concluded. They wanted the court to give Ahok the sentence that they feel he deserves," Iriawan said.
"Their request to see court officials have been accommodated today, so there should be no more protest on Tuesday," he said, adding that the police are nevertheless expecting more protests to happen.
"We're looking into intelligence reports for signs of more protests. We'll be ready when it happens," Jakarta Police spokesman Chief Comr. Argo Yuwono said.
Friday's demonstration was the second after prosecutors earlier in April recommended a lighter sentence of two-year probation with a possible one-year prison term for Ahok, who is facing blasphemy and hate speech charges. They carry prison terms of up to five and four years.
The protest was also the seventh in the last seven months against Ahok, who Muslim protesters believe committed blasphemy when he made a public comment last September against the use of the Koran for political campaigning.
On April 20, prosecutors downgraded the accusations against Ahok from alleged blasphemy to publicly expressing feelings of hostility, hatred or contempt against one or more population groups, making some of his political opponents worried that he might get away scot-free.
The move has found support from prominent lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis and 25 of his colleagues. Two days ago, Todung sent a letter to the North Jakarta District court, encouraging judges not to bow down to intimidation and pressure.In the letter, Todung — who claimed to have collected more than 70,ooo signatures for an online petition to free Ahok — said the blasphemy charges against Ahok were never proven in court and that prosecutors should stick to their downgraded sentence demand, which dropped the accusation of blasphemy.
Friday's rally, dubbed the "505 Action" in reference to today's date, was meant to challenge the prosecutors' downgraded charge and the support for the much-maligned governor that came from Todung and his friends.