FPI leader Rizieq Shihab has been overstaying in Saudi Arabia for months: Embassy

FPI leader Rizieq Shihab speaking with students in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Photo: @dpp_fpi / Instagram
FPI leader Rizieq Shihab speaking with students in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Photo: @dpp_fpi / Instagram

So, there you have it. After followers of Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader and fugitive Rizieq Shihab spent much of this week spinning conspiracy theories about why the firebrand cleric had not been allowed to leave Saudi Arabia and how he had been “intimidated” by Saudi authorities, it turned out that his troubles were simply due to a visa violation.

The Indonesian Embassy (KBRI) in Riyadh today dispelled the conspiracy theories, suggested by Rizieq’s supporters without evidence, that the Indonesian and Saudi governments were working to keep the hardline leader from returning to Indonesia. According to the embassy, the reasonable reason for Rizieq being investigated by Saudi authorities is that he’s been overstaying his visa for months.

“Based on KBRI Riyadh’s investigation, right now the visa issued to Muhammad Rizieq Shihab to stay in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has exceeded its expiry date,” Indonesian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Agus Maftuh Abegebriel said in a press release today, as picked up by CNN Indonesia.

Agus explained that Rizieq initially entered Saudi in May 2017 using a type of business visa that did not permit his employment while in Saudi (his lawyer previously claimed Rizieq was on a special invitational visa). His visa was valid for one year and allowed for multiple entries with 90-day stay periods per entry.

“This visa actually expired on May 9, 2018 and was extended under visa No 603724XXXX until July 20, 2018,” Agus said.

Despite Rizieq legally being in the wrong, Agus said KBRI is ready to assist him in facing any legal trouble he has in Saudi Arabia, as assistance is afforded by the embassy to all Indonesian citizens abroad.

Rizieq has been living in Saudi Arabia for over a year now due to numerous legal problems he faces in his home country. On top of his difficulties in returning to Indonesia (something he hopes presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto can help him with), Rizieq’s followers recently revealed that the firebrand cleric was barred by Saudi Arabian authorities from traveling to Malaysia, and that they suspected that the Saudis have been in cahoots with the Indonesian government to prevent Rizieq from coming home and exert his influence in the 2019 presidential election.

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