BREAKING: Police officially name FPI leader Rizieq Shihab suspect in pornography case related to sex scandal allegations

The leader of the Islamic Defenders Front, Habib Rizieq, gestures as he speaks upon his arrival at police headquarters for questioning in Jakarta, Indonesia January 23, 2017.  REUTERS/Darren Whiteside
The leader of the Islamic Defenders Front, Habib Rizieq, gestures as he speaks upon his arrival at police headquarters for questioning in Jakarta, Indonesia January 23, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

After weeks of investigation and attempts to get Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab to answer summons for questioning while he is hiding in Saudi Arabia, the Jakarta Police today announced that the head of the hardline organization has officially been named a suspect in a pornography case stemming from leaked documents alleging an adulterous affair between Rizieq and a married woman.

Jakarta Police Special Crimes Unit Director Sr. Comr. Wahyu Hadiningrat confirmed the news this afternoon.

“Yes, Rizieq has been named a suspect,” Wahyu told Detik, without offering any more details about the FPI leader’s new status in the investigation.

Wahyu did tell reporters that case investigators had already sent their file on Firza Husein, the woman the leaked documents allege Rizieq was having an affair with, to the Jakarta senior prosecutor.  Firza had previously been named a suspect in the case after police declared there was “undeniable” evidence linking her to the nude photos and voice recording included amongst the leaked documents.

In response to the news that Rizieq had been named a suspect by the police, FPI spokeswoman Slamet Maarif shot back with an odd allegation at the police.

“The investigator that confiscated Firza’s handphone must explain why the contents of the phone could spread,” Slamet told CNN Indonesia (odd in that it seems to confirm that the leaked documents did, in fact, come from Firza and were not completely fabricated as Rizieq’s supporters usually claim).

“Stop engineering cases to criminalize the clerics until people do not believe in the police,” Slamet continued.

So… if you’re confused as to how these leaked documents about an adulterous affair between Rizieq and Firza have turned into an official police investigation over criminal pornography, here’s a quick history of the case.

Baladacintarizieq

Back in late January, a website titled “Baladacintarizieq” (Rizieq’s tale of love) appeared online featuring what was alleged to be leaked information, including Whatsapp chat logs, an audio recording and nude photos of Firza, detailing an adulterous affair between her and the FPI leader.

Firza was known to be a follower of Rizieq’s who often appeared near him in public. She was also one of the people questioned over an alleged treason attempt against the government late last year due to her close relationships with other suspects, including pop star-turned-politician Ahmad Dhani and former army general Kivlan Zein.

Both Rizieq and Firza fiercely denied the accusations and said all of the leaked information was completely fabricated, with their lawyers threatening to report whoever spread the information online with slander.

However, Rizieq and Firza were soon placed on the defensive after a criminal report was filed by a group called the Anti-Pornography Student Alliance, which reported three websites (including “’Baladacintarizieq”, which is believed to be the original spreader of the leaks) for hosting the highly explicit information in violation of Indonesia’s Pornography Law and Information and Electronic Transaction Law (UU ITE), which criminalizes the production and spread of pornography for public consumption.

This report gave police the legal justification needed to investigate the authenticity of the sex scandal rumors. In addition to attempting to summon Rizieq and Firza numerous times for questioning, they also brought in expert witnesses to examine the leaked information. Police said that multiple forensic experts had testified that there was undeniable evidence linking Firza to the woman in the photos. Police also said they had confiscated one of Rizieq’s phones and found evidence of ‘intense’ conversations between him and Firza. There was also audio of a conversation between Firza and a woman named Emma supposedly discussing the affair with Rizieq, and police say Emma admitted the conversation was true after questioning.

Rizieq  on the run

Rizieq is currently believed to be in Saudi Arabia and his lawyers have said that he was avoiding returning to Indonesia in order to avoid questioning over the case, which the FPI leader and his supporters say have been engineered by the authorities to criminalize him and other ulemas in revenge for the instrumental role that he played in the massive protests against and subsequent jailing of former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy. He previously said he might not return to Indonesia while President Joko Widodo was still in office.

According to his own lawyers, Rizieq traveled to Saudi Arabia to undergo the Umrah pilgrimage several weeks ago before leaving for Malaysia to work on a doctoral thesis and then returning to Saudi Arabia, yet again, supposedly to undergo the Umrah pilgrimage, yet again. Many have questioned how Rizieq was able to travel to Saudi Arabia twice in such a short amount of time, and some have speculated he was given a special invitational visa by the Saudi government.

Although police had previously threatened to issue an Interpol red notice for Rizieq’s detainment abroad, they have not taken that step as of yet, but his new suspect status might change that.

Moral policing

While police have stated that they have strong evidence that Firza was the person in the leaked information, they have not revealed any information to suggest that she or Rizieq were involved in the distribution of the information, which is what the pornography law actually prohibits (the creation of pornographic materials for personal, private use is allowed under Indonesian law). Indeed, Firza’s lawyer has protested the police naming her a suspect when they have not seemed to have found any evidence of who put the material online while Rizieq’s supporters claim that the materials were falsified and spread by two Indonesian bloggers, but said they were still gathering evidence before reporting them to the police.

The police may not need any proof that Firza or Rizieq intended for their private information to be leaked to be found guilty of violating the law. In the infamous sex scandal case of Ariel “Peter Pan”, the musician was found guilty of creating and spreading pornographic materials after sex tapes of him with several Indonesian celebrities were leaked online, despite prosecutors never presenting evidence that Ariel had intended for the tapes to be released publicly (something he would very obviously be totally against).

At that time, members of the FPI protested at Ariel’s trial, saying he should be stoned for adultery in accordance with sharia law, specifically arguing that the materials being for his private use was no excuse.

 

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CITY: JAKARTACATEGORY: NEWSSUB-CATEGORIES: CRIME

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