President Joko says Indonesia operates on rule of law after controversial preacher's arrest

Rizieq Shihab was arrested on suspicion of having breached coronavirus restrictions by holding events that drew thousands of followers. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - President Joko Widodo said on Sunday (Dec 13) that Indonesia operates on the rule of law that is enforced on everyone to protect the people and nation, a day after police arrested controversial Islamist preacher Rizieq Shihab.

"It is the duty of the law enforcement officers to act firmly and fairly in enforcing the law; and remember that they are protected by the law in performing their duties," he said in a video, as quoted by The Jakarta Post daily.

The police, he said, is also obliged to follow procedures.

"For this reason, there should not be any citizens who act arbitrarily and violate the law and harm the public and the nation," Mr Joko said.

Rizieq was arrested in Jakarta on Saturday on suspicion of having breached coronavirus restrictions by holding events that drew thousands of followers in the city, his lawyer said, as reported by Reuters.

The preacher had been called in by the police to give a statement for allowing thousands of his supporters to gather at the Jakarta airport and in a gathering at his house last month, soon after he returned from a self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia.

But he has been avoiding the police.

Last week, police shot dead six of his followers in a highway shootout, as the supporters were accompanying him.

Local media cited Jakarta police as saying Rizieq, 55, who heads the Islamic Defender's Front (FPI), had been charged with the obstruction of law enforcement and incitement of criminal acts, Reuters reported.

Pictures issued by the national police showed that after his arrest, Rizieq was allowed to lead several police investigators in early-evening (Maghrib) prayers, at the Metro Jaya Polda (district police) building.

The head of the police's public relations division Argo Yuwono said allowing Rizieq to lead the prayers was a humanitarian gesture.

Rizieq was also served lunch and explained about Covid-19 health protocols during his detention. He is expected to serve a 20-day detention from Dec 12 to Dec 31.

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