JAKARTA – Indonesia’s president blamed political meddling for violence in the capital Jakarta on Friday that killed one person and injured seven following a protest by hard-line Muslims demanding the arrest of the city’s minority-Christian governor for alleged blasphemy.
In a televised address, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said the riot showed “political actors have taken advantage of the situation.” He did not identify any individual as responsible, but earlier in the week former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono went on national television to say he supported plans for the massive protest.
“They should have dispersed, but instead they turned to rioting,” Jokowi said of the protesters.
Jakarta police spokesman Awi Setiyono said an elderly man died during the violence, possibly from the effects of tear gas. He said four civilians and three police officers were injured.
Clashes broke out between police and hard-core protesters who refused to disperse following nightfall. Police fired tear gas and water cannons and protesters set alight three police vehicles and piles of rubbish left behind from the protest, which drew tens of thousands of people.
Indonesia, with a population of more than 250 million people, is the world’s most populous Muslim nation. Most people practice a moderate form of Islam but a vocal minority wants to impose a stricter interpretation.