More than 10,000 Muslim protesters converged in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta on Friday, calling for the jailing of Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, a minority Christian governor on trial for blasphemy against the Qur'an, as religious tensions build ahead of an April 19 election. Police had earlier arrested five people, including Muhammad Al Khaththath, a leader of the hardline Islamic People's Forum (FUI) which organized the rally, on treason charges.

Ahok, the first ethnic Chinese governor in Indonesia, has been on trial since December and had tearfully denied charges of disrespecting the Qur’an. He had angered religious conservatives on the campaign trail months earlier when he referenced a Qur’an verse to defend his stance in a YouTube video that went viral, which encouraged Indonesians to vote for officials even if they did not share the same religion.

Blasphemy is considered a serious offense in Indonesia, and offenders could face up to five years in prison.

As a result of Ahok's statements in the last election season, an estimated 50,000 people marched and rioted last November near the presidential palace. Protests turned violent as people set fire to vehicles and attacked police, BBC News reported

According to reports by the Associated Press and Reuters, protesters in the Muslim-majority country maintained their allegiance to rioting Ahok's seat as governor Friday, despite his advancements in the country which included cleaning up the river system and providing affordable housing for the impoverished.

Protest Indonesian Muslim protesters shout slogans during a protest calling for the removal of Jakarta's governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, in Jakarta, Indonesia March 31, 2017. Photo: Reuters

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Protesters marched from Istiqlal Mosque to the presidential palace in central Jakarta where a horde of militants were on heavy guard. Police blocked off roads as the protesters crowded the capital.

Police officials claimed that "there were several findings" that Khaththath and other hardliners were "conspiring to commit treason," and that there were plans to occupy the Indonesian parliament.

Ahok will face Anies Baswedan in the upcoming election. Baswedan is a former cabinet member supported by a large population of conservative Muslims. 

Protests Indonesian Muslim protesters wave flags during a rally calling for the sacking of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama for suspected blasphemy in Jakarta, Indonesia March 31, 2017. Photo: Reuters