VISITORS driving into central Jakarta recently were greeted by a sight unusual in Indonesia: protesters, thousands of them. The column of about 3,000 young people, many wearing the Islamic jilbab veil, were on their way to the city centre after a demonstration at parliament. Led by Dita Indah Sari, the head of the Centre for Indonesian Workers' Struggle, they were protesting against government interference in the affairs of the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party. Ms Sari, who is now expected to be charged for political crimes, and her colleague Budiman Sudjatmiko, chairman of the self-styled People's Democratic Party, are two key figures behind an increase in open dissent in Indonesia in the past year. Both young, they are trying to resurrect the protest movement in a country where open political dissent all but disappeared with the pre-1965 rule of the late first president Sukarno. Under Sukarno's successor, President Suharto, organisers of political rallies are required to obtain permits, and the authorities discourage labour protests, often with force. But despite the odds, Mr Budiman's organisation has had some well-known successes. An umbrella group, it takes in Ms Sari's organisation and prominent student activist groups. Its most spectacular action came last December, when more than 100 student and East Timorese activists stormed the Dutch and Russian embassies. They were protesting against Indonesia's invasion of the former Portuguese colony. Mr Budiman says the group has organised eight major protests and its subsidiaries many more. These include a two-day protest for higher wages in Surabaya, East Java, last week, which reportedly involved 3,000 to 10,000 people. Mr Budiman accepts government allegations that his group masterminded the protest, saying the group's 120 full-time activists use set techniques to mobilise supporters. They hand out pamphlets explaining the issues involved, followed by more advanced information until those enlisted are ready for action. The group has also adopted a quasi-military structure during its campaigns to ensure protests are disciplined and peaceful, and are not penetrated by agents provocateurs, Mr Budiman said. But the organisation's days may be numbered. After last week's protest in Surabaya turned into a clash with police, Ms Sari and two colleagues were detained. The Jakarta Post reported them bruised and 'visibly unhealthy' after they were kept under heavy guard at a police station. According to reports, the chief of the local Brawijaya military command, Major-General Imam Utomo, has threatened to charge them with subversion, which carries the death penalty. Although they are unlikely to be executed, Mr Budiman says there is little doubt Ms Sari will go to jail. 'We've already dispatched a lawyer to Surabaya,' he said. In the meantime, he intends to carry on with the struggle for a multi-party democracy. 'I am a social democrat,' he concluded.