Treason allegations against FPI leader Rizieq Shihab being investigated, over 85k sign petition demanding his citizenship be revoked

FILE PHOTO: Gerindra chairman Prabowo Subianto meeting with Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) founder Rizieq Shihab in Mecca in June 2018. Photo: Instagram
FILE PHOTO: Gerindra chairman Prabowo Subianto meeting with Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) founder Rizieq Shihab in Mecca in June 2018. Photo: Instagram

Rizieq Shihab, the leader of Indonesia’s infamous Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), is currently in self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia, but that has not stopped the firebrand preacher from being reported on new treason charges back in his homeland, nor stopped tens of thousands from signing a petition demanding that his Indonesian citizen be revoked.

On May 14, Dewi Ambarawit Tanjung, a politician belonging to the same political party as President Joko Widodo, PDI-P, reported Rizieq, along with PAN politician Amien Rais and Bachtiar Nasir ( former chairman of the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council’s Fatwa (GNPF-MUI) and another senior supporter of failed presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto) to the Jakarta Police for treason. In regards to Rizieq, the report cited one of his speeches, which was shared heavily on social media in which he demanded that President Jokowi to resign from office for using his official powers to manipulate the outcome of the April 17 presidential election and defeat Prabowo (an unsubstantiated allegation that government officials and independent observers have roundly rejected).

On Saturday, the Jakarta police spokesperson Argo Yuwono confirmed that the report was currently under investigation and that Dewi, as the reporter, would be questioned about it this week following the conclusion of the Lebaran holiday period.

Also over the weekend, a petition started by user 7intaPutih and calling upon President Jokowi to get Rizieq’s Indonesian citizenship revoked went viral. As of the time of writing, the petition has just over 85,000 signatures.

The petition refers to Rizieq as a very dangerous leader “affiliated with the ISIS terrorist group” and includes video to support the claim.

Referencing another viral petition calling upon the government to not renew FPI’s organizational permit (which has already garnered over 474k signatures), 7inta Putih argues that disbanding FPI is not enough since Rizieq would simply start a new organization.

Rizieq Shihab started FPI as a hardline vigilante group in 1998 after the fall of Suharto, but Rizieq and the organization’s political influence has grown exponentially in recent years, particularly after 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial race, in which Islamist-led protests again former Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama proved decisive in his electoral defeat. However, the hardliner organization’s influence and future are in question following Prabowo’s election loss and the rioting on and around May 22.

Rizieq has been in Saudi Arabia since 2017 after fleeing from Indonesia when police named him a suspect in a hugely embarrassing and ironic pornography case. Police later dropped his suspect status in that case but Rizieq still has several other unresolved cases against him, leading to claims that he would not return to Indonesia while President Joko WIdodo and his government continued to “criminalize” him and other ulemas (Islamic scholars).

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