Indonesian police on Monday nominated an Islamist leader as a central suspect who used to exchange of pornographic messages and photos, a new legal threat to a cleric who helped organize mass Muslim rallies against Jakarta’s former Christian governor.
Habib Rizieq, a bold cleric he is the leader of the hardline Islamic Defenders Forum (FPI), he has also been made a suspect in a separate investigation over allegations he insulted the secular state ideology in the Muslim-majority nation.
President Joko Widodo appears to be taking a tougher stand against fundamentalism as he already told that he would not be tolerating any individuals or organizations that undermine the secular state ideology “Pancasila.”
Religious and political tensions had risen in the last six months as Islamist-led rallies targeting the Jakarta’s governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian who was jailed against the blames of blasphemy in a Muslim majority state..
The government recently took action against Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamist group that calls for a state based on sharia and also backed the protests against Purnama, an ally of Widodo.
Rizieq one of the most prominent leader of the religious group, who has spent years preaching conservative Islamic values, is accused of violating Indonesia’s strict anti-pornography laws by exchanging graphic messages and nude pictures with a woman.
Jakarta police official Argo Yuwono confirmed the blames over Rizieq that made him a suspect, and further trial of Rizieq against the charges over him would be justified in court.
“The main crime is participating in and transmitting pornographic content,” policeman Yuwono said in a telephone text message.
Rizieq’s lawyer, Sugitmo Atmo Pawiro, denied the allegations, saying they had been fabricated by supporters of Purnama.
Rizieq is currently overseas after flying to Malaysia and then to Saudi Arabia. He has not returned to Indonesia despite repeated summons for questioning by police.
His lawyer denied that the cleric had fled Indonesia because of his legal troubles.
An FPI spokesman said the legal complaints against Rizieq were “unfounded”.
“This has all been engineered to criminalize the clerics,” said Novel Bamukmin, head of the FPI Jakarta chapter.
“The police need to investigate who really produced and distributed that transcript,” he said.
Rizieq served prison terms in 2003 and 2008 for violence and disrupting public order.