Indonesia protest: President Joko Widodo cancels Australia visit

Demonstrators march in Jakarta, Indonesia, after a day of protest, 4 November 2016

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has cancelled his visit to Australia following violent clashes at a rally in Jakarta involving thousands of hard-line Muslims.

Mr Widodo blamed “political actors” for exploiting the situation as protesters marched against Jakarta’s governor.

The demonstrators accuse Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian, of having insulted Islam’s holy book, the Koran.

The clashes left one person dead and 12 wounded.

“We deplore the incident,” said Mr Widodo, as he called for calm on the streets of the country’s capital.

In a statement on Saturday, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed that the Indonesian President had postponed his visit.

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It comes after Indonesian police used tear gas and water cannon to subdue protesters who refused to disperse after Friday prayers as they congregated around the presidential palace.

Police had been braced for the possibility of religious and racial tensions erupting at the rally, attended by an estimated 50,000 people.

Demonstrators march in Jakarta, Indonesia, after a day of protest, 4 November 2016Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe protests were largely peaceful but some demonstrators clashed with police

It had mostly been peaceful but groups of angry demonstrators clashed with police after nightfall and set vehicles alight.

Muslim groups have accused Mr Purnama of insulting Islam after he said his opponents had used a verse from the Koran to deceive voters.

The verse implies that Muslims should not choose non-Muslims as leaders.

The protest was held to demand that Mr Purnama be prosecuted for blasphemy over the comments.

Mr Purnama has apologised but formal complaints have led to an investigation by police.