Indonesia names Islamist leader a suspect in pornography case

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Jakarta: Indonesian police on Monday named an Islamist leader as a suspect in the exchange of pornographic messages and photos, a new legal threat to a cleric who helped organise mass Muslim rallies against Jakarta’s then governor.

Muhammad Rizieq Shihab, also known as Habib Rizieq, is a firebrand cleric who heads the hardline Islam Defenders’ Front (FPI), has also been made a suspect in a separate investigation over allegations he insulted the secular state ideology in the Muslim-majority nation.



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Indonesia correspondent reports Jewel Topsfield outside the largest mosque in South-East Asia on Friday evening, where thousands of muslims are demanding the arrest of Jakarta’s Chinese Christian governor.

“Habib” is a title which in Indonesia is given to descendants of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo appears to be taking a tougher stance against Islamism and has said he would not tolerate any individuals or organisations that undermine the secular state ideology “Pancasila”, or threaten Indonesia’s tradition of pluralism.

Religious and political tensions have soared in the last six months with Islamist-led rallies targeting then Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, an ethnic Chinese Christian who was jailed this month for insulting the Koran.

The government recently moved to disband Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamist group that calls for a state based on sharia and also backed the protests against Ahok, an ally of Mr Joko’s.

Rizieq, 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.

A Jakarta police spokesman confirmed Rizieq had been made a suspect, meaning the case is likely to go to court.

“The main crime is participating in and transmitting pornographic content,”  the police spokesman said.

Rizieq’s lawyer, Sugitmo Atmo Pawiro, denied the allegations, saying they had been fabricated by Ahok supporters.

Rizieq is currently overseas after flying to Malaysia and then 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 criminalise the clerics,” said Novel Bamukmin, head of the FPI’s Jakarta chapter. “The police need to investigate who really produced and distributed that transcript.”

Rizieq served prison terms in 2003 and 2008 for violence and disrupting public order.

Reuters



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