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Clashes during protests in Indonesia against controversial laws

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Police used tear gas in Jakarta and several Indonesian cities on Monday against demonstrators who have been moving against anti-controversial laws for nearly a week.

At least one Taliban was killed and hundreds injured in demonstrations, sometimes in riots, which began on 23 September in the Southeast Asian archipelago.

In the capital Jakarta, about 26,000 police and military personnel were deployed with armored vehicles on Monday. Thousands of students demonstrated with banners near the parliament, which has been surrounded by barbed wire.

There were clashes between protesters who threw stones and security forces, who responded by throwing tear gas canisters.

The students are particularly reluctant to modify the weakening of the Anti-Corruption Agency, a respected institution in Indonesia.

“Why amend this law?” Asked Luqman Hakim Abr, a 24-year-old Indonesian who came from Malaysia, where he is studying to participate in the move.

“We students … reject any review of the law that would weaken the anti-corruption agency,” he told AFP.

They are also protesting against a broad draft amendment to the Penal Code that specifically provides for imprisonment as punishment for sexual relations outside marriage or between persons of the same sex. It is also illegal to “offer or offer” contraceptives to minors.

The bill also provides for a wider application of the controversial blasphemy law, which worries minorities in the country with the world’s largest Muslim population.

The amendment would also prevent “insults” to the president or vice president.

In Bandung, a major student city on Java island, thousands of students demonstrated. “I decided to join the demonstrations after I heard about the deaths of two students and tear gas attacks,” said student Panyu Peru, dressed in a school uniform.

In Lombok, an island close to Bali, clashes took place between about 2,000 students and security forces, an AFP journalist said.

Demonstrators are also demanding the withdrawal of Indonesian troops from West Papua, where violence killed more than 30 people in September.

They also want to open an investigation into the deaths of two students in Kendari, a town on the island of Sulawesi, killed last week during riots.

President Joko Widdo tried to calm the students by making concessions as he prepares to be sworn in for a second term in October.

The vote on the amendment to the penal code was postponed and the president confirmed that he would re-examine the amendment on the anti-corruption agency.

After a quiet weekend, the demonstrations, the largest since the uprising that toppled dictator Suharto in 1998, returned on Monday.

Indonesian Security Minister Wiranto warned of any riots on Monday, ahead of the inauguration of the new parliament.

“I ask the demonstrators not to use violence and obstruct the installation of new deputies,” he told reporters.

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