Indonesian police issue arrest order for chief of FPI

Mr Rizieq Shihab is wanted for questioning related to a pornography case but has twice ignored police summons.
Mr Rizieq Shihab is wanted for questioning related to a pornography case but has twice ignored police summons.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

JAKARTA • An arrest order has been issued for hardline Muslim cleric Rizieq Shihab after he continued to ignore summons by the Indonesian police.

The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) chief, who had led several protests against outgoing Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, is wanted for questioning in connection with a pornography investigation.

He was a no-show twice - first on April 25 and again last Wednesday - and now the police have warned that they will take him by force if he fails to report for interrogation.

The cleric was said to have gone on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia and later surfaced in Malaysia, but Jakarta Police spokesman Argo Yuwono said yesterday that Mr Rizieq has been located in Jeddah.

Mr Rizieq has been one of Basuki's fiercest critics and had even testified as a prosecution witness against the Christian politician during his blasphemy trial.

Basuki, who is better known by his Chinese nickname Ahok, is currently appealing against the two-year jail term he was given after being found guilty of insulting Islam last week.

When asked if Mr Rizieq would be detained in Jeddah, Colonel Argo said: "We are now coordinating with Interpol and immigration."

Mr Rizieq is also under probe for blasphemy against Christianity and defaming Indonesia's national ideology of Pancasila, which promotes unity in diversity.

But it is the allegations that revolve around racy WhatsApp chats, purportedly between Mr Rizieq and female political operative Firza Husein, that have hogged the headlines in Indonesia recently.

The WhatsApp exchange between the two alleged lovers include several naked pictures of Ms Firza, which were sent to Mr Rizieq as they were "sexting".

Ms Firza arrived for police questioning yesterday but she did not stop to speak to reporters waiting at the Jakarta police headquarters.

Her lawyer, Mr Azis Yanuar, told Tempo news on Monday that the case against his client was " slanderous and engineered" but he did not say by who or why.

Compromising photos of Ms Firza had been circulating on the Internet in recent months and she has denied that she was the woman in the WhatsApp chats or photos.

A technical expert engaged by the police to examine chat and photos, however, confirmed that they were authentic, said Col Argo.

Francis Chan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2017, with the headline 'Police issue arrest order for chief of hardline group FPI'. Print Edition | Subscribe