Indonesia police investigate cleric over alleged online sex chats

Indonesian cleric Habib Rizieq Shihab speaking while being escorted by police officers and supporters at the police headquarters in Jakarta on Jan 23, 2017.
Indonesian cleric Habib Rizieq Shihab speaking while being escorted by police officers and supporters at the police headquarters in Jakarta on Jan 23, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

JAKARTA - A day after firebrand cleric Habib Rizieq Shihab was named a suspect for allegedly insulting the state ideology and founding president Sukarno, Indonesian police are now investigating fresh allegations over online sex chats involving him.

Police have received a report from a group of students about a series of photos and videos featuring intimate exchanges purportedly between the chairman of the hardline group Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and a woman named Firza Husein, Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono told The Straits Times on Tuesday (Jan 31).

The screengrabs of the sexually explicit WhatsApp conversations allegedly between them and nude photographs of a woman resembling Firza, which first emerged on Sunday (Jan 29), have since gone viral on social media.

"Investigators are now examining the content and materials of the people featured and will question them later. But the experts will first have to prove whether the materials and exchanges are fake or real," Senior Commissioner Argo said by phone.

Those involved - whether as a participant in the production of the materials or the disseminator of the content - could be charged with violating the country's anti-pornography as well as Information and Electronic Transactions laws, he added.

Mr Rizieq has led the FPI in three street rallies between October and December last year to protest against Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, for allegedly insulting Islam.

On Monday (Jan 31), the West Java police named Mr Rizieq a suspect for defaming both the Pancasila, the national ideology which promotes diversity and democracy, and Mr Sukarno. The case is centred around a two-minute long video showing the 51-year-old telling an audience that Mr Sukarno had written an earlier version of Pancasila that did not prioritise belief in God.

There had been other reports lodged to the police against him, including one filed by a local Catholic group, which has accused him of making blasphemous comments about Jesus Christ.