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Anti-spying protest in Jakarta

November 22, 2013

More than 300 Indonesian protesters have rallied outside the Australian embassy, demanding that their government expel the ambassador over spying claims. More than 300 police were deployed around the embassy.

Anti-Australia protesters throw bottles of urine, eggs and tomatoes during a rally in front of the Australian embassy in Jakarta (Photo: BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)
Image: BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images

For the second day, protesters burned Australian flags and images of Prime Minister Tony Abbott outside the heavily fortified embassy in central Jakarta on Friday. The protesters threw rotten eggs and tomatoes. Mostly members of conservative Islamic groups, the protesters also erected a large banner that read: "Close the Australian Embassy. Expel its Diplomats."

"Destroy them," a speaker shouted to protesters from the nationalist group the Red and White Fighter Command.

Citing documents provided by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden, Australia's national broadcaster, ABC, reported that the country's security services logged the mobile phone traffic of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife over a 15-day period in 2009. ABC reported that the documents provided by Snowden, a former contractor with the US National Security Agency, showed the time, duration and telephone numbers of calls made by the president, his closest colleagues and his wife, Kristiani Herawati Yudhoyono.

'It's normal'

Indonesia has recalled its ambassador from Australia and suspended some military cooperation between the two countries, with the president announcing he had "downgraded" relations. Yudhoyono has also demanded an official explanation from Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who expressed regret over the spying incident but stopped short of apologizing.

In comments that could undermine the tough stance taken by Yudhoyono, Abdullah Mahmud Hendropriyono, who led Indonesia's national intelligence agency from 2001 to late 2004, played down the seriousness of the row in various media appearances.

"For intelligence, it's normal," he told Australia's Fairfax Media, referring to the reported attempts to spy on the conversations of Yudhoyono, his wife and ministers. "The function of intelligence is to collect as much information as possible, which is as accurate as possible," he told the Indonesian news website Liputan6.com. "The easiest way to do that is by wiretapping."

"Pickpockets," Hendropriyono said, "are supposed to pick pockets."

mkg/ng (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)