Firebrand cleric released on probation sent back to prison for alleged violation

Habib Bahar Smith. Photo: Instagram
Habib Bahar Smith. Photo: Instagram

Habib Bahar bin Smith, a firebrand cleric who was sentenced to three years in prison for assaulting minors in 2019, has been sent back to prison briefly after he was released on probation this week.

Smith, whose prison sentence ends in December 2021, was granted early probationary release and left the Pondok Rajeg Penitentiary in Bogor on Saturday.

Hundreds of Smith’s followers reportedly greeted him upon his release, with photos and videos circulating showing that few regarded physical distancing measures. Smith also reportedly held a sermon, with footage once again showing that physical distancing measures were ignored.

At around 2am today, Smith was re-arrested and taken to the Gunung Sindur Penitentiary in Bogor.

“He was sent to Gunung Sindur after his probation was revoked over violations of terms,” West Java Correctional Affairs Head Abdul Aris said, without specifying Smith’s violations. 

Smith’s lawyer, Aziz Yanuar, said his client was sent back to prison for his sermon, in which he said Smith criticized the government.

Previously the court found Smith guilty for assaulting two boys, aged 17 and 18, in Bogor regency on Dec 1, 2018. Video footage of the assault showed Smith striking the boys, including using his knee, while they looked like they were being forced to take the beating and unable to retaliate. 

The beating, which took place at a pesantren (religious boarding school) run by Smith, was reportedly punishment for the boys for supposedly impersonating Smith and his friend a few days prior.

Smith, 33, is the founder of a hardline group called the Prophet’s Defender Council. The group was covered in the news numerous times over the years for conducting raids and forcing the closure of entertainment spots during Ramadan, as well as attacking minority religious groups.

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