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Over 500 arrested as protesters clash with riot police in Jakarta

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JAKARTA: More than 500 people were arrested after clashes in the Indonesian capital amid nationwide protests against a raft of divisive reforms - including banning premarital sex and weakening the anti-graft agency - authorities said yesterday.

The arrests came after a night of pitched street battles between riot police and stone-throwing protesters - many high school and university students - in Jakarta's sprawling downtown core.

Security forces geared up for more unrest yesterday as some 575 lawmakers were sworn in at the country's heavily barricaded Parliament building.

Since last week, at least two students have died and hundreds more have been injured as a wave of unrest swept across the South-east Asian archipelago, just weeks before President Joko Widodo kicks off another term as head of the world's third-biggest democracy.

The protests are among the biggest student rallies since mass street demonstrations in 1998 toppled the Suharto dictatorship.

"So far we have detained 519 rioters from yesterday's demonstration," Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono told AFP yesterday.

"We're questioning them to determine whether or not they are students," he added.

National police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo was quoted by local media as saying that police had detained 649 demonstrators from Monday's protests.

Several dozen protesters were injured on Monday at rallies in other parts of the country, authorities said. - AFP

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