Jakarta – Riot police and soldiers blocked hundreds of demonstrators from holding a prayer service in front of the Indonesian Democracy Party headquarters, Sunday. from Jakarta, Jenny Grant reports the protesters were marking the first anniversary of violent riots in the capital.
Three hundred troops kept around 15 hundred supporters of ousted opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri from the road in front of the office of the Indonesian Democratic Party – known as the P-D-I.
They were protesting a violent military raid on the office last July 27th that sparked riots leaving at least five people dead.
Sunday, police on motorbikes and lines of riot police armed with guns, shields and batons split the protesters into two groups and forced them down side streets behind the p-d-i office.
They used rattan sticks to beat some mourners and confiscated a banner from others.
Mobile police and marines armed with semi-automatic weapons guarded the premises and more than a dozen trucks of soldiers were stationed in the area.
The crowd cheered Megawati slogans and sang the national anthem.
Three separate prayer sessions went ahead near the P-D-I office. the groups of mainly-young mourners sprinkled white jasmine and purple orchids on the surrounding roads. A Mrs. Effendi (eds: one name, cq) was one of dozens of people trapped inside the P-D-I office last year when it was invaded by of Ms. Sukarnoputri's rival in the P-D-I, Suryadi (one word, cq) backed by the military.
An emotional Mrs Effendi said she was injured during last year's raid. Her 27-year-old nephew, Arifin, has been missing since the clash. His family fears he is dead.
The National Commission on Human Rights says five people died during last year's riots, 149 were injured and 16 others are still missing. Opposition forces say the death toll is much higher.
On Sunday, authorities checked the identification cards of anyone in the area, including diplomats. Two major streets were blocked with barbed wire barricades. witnesses say military intelligence harassed and beat some protesters.
Two demonstrators from the Central Java city, Semarang, say they suffered head and ear injuries when they were beaten by plainclothes intelligence officers, early Sunday.
Reporters saw two men arrested, however, Central Jakarta Police Chief Ibrahim, denies there were any arrests and says police were just trying to keep the peace.
Mr Ibrahim says there was a danger riots could have broken out.