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Thousands of Indonesians Protest Corruption


In cities across Indonesia thousands of demonstrators held rallies and marches to mark International Anti-Corruption Day. One rally turned violent with protesters throwing rocks and the police using tear gas.

Though activists predicted that hundreds of thousands would march Wednesday against corruption in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, only a few thousand turned up.

Most were students protesting the latest corruption scandal in the country. It involves allegations that a $600 million government bailout was given to Century Bank on condition that some of the money be used to fund the president's re-election campaign. The legislature is investigating the bailout and the possible roles played by Vice President Boediono and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani in orchestrating a deal.

The government denies the charges.

Many of the demonstrators, like Ridwan Laodabone with a Muslim student organization, already consider the vice president and finance minister guilty.

He says he wants the president to fire those two officials.

Jakarta University student Adi Prasetyo says Indonesia should follow China's example of executing some corrupt officials.

He says those involved in corruption should be shot to death.

Thousands more demonstrated in other cities and towns across the country. Most rallies were without incident but in Makassar in South Sulawesi, students armed with rocks and wooden planks clashed with anti-riot police.

The news media report that police fired tear gas to break up the crowd after protesters tried to storm the provincial governor's office. There was no immediate report of injuries or arrests among the 2,000 protesters.

On Saturday President Suslio Bambang Yudhoyono was critical of some anti-corruption activists, saying they are politically motivated and want only to discredit and topple his presidency. But in a nationally televised speech on Tuesday he praised the anti-corruption movement.

He calls for everyone to celebrate and join the rallies in an orderly and peaceful manner.

The president's popularity has been hurt by allegations of corruption. In addition to the Century Bank scandal, police charged anti-graft officials from the Corruption Eradication Commission with bribery and blackmail. Prosecutors later dropped all charges. Critics allege that the police acted to discredit and intimidate the anti-corruption organization.