Porn suspect status dropped, FPI leader Rizieq still awaits legal certainty before returning to Indonesia

FPI leader Rizieq Shihab Photo: @dpp_fpi / Instagram

Rizieq Shihab, the founder of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), has been a fugitive from Indonesian justice for over one year after being named a suspect in a high-profile pornography case by the Jakarta Police. But now that the authorities have dropped his suspect status, citing a lack of evidence, many are wondering when the FPI leader will return to Indonesia and what impact his homecoming will have on national politics.

According to former FPI Jakarta secretary general Novel Bamukmin, Rizieq’s return to Indonesia still remains up in the air due to other legal problems he could potentially face upon his homecoming.

“He is not yet [coming home], there are still three more cases in which he has not yet received an SP3 (investigation termination warrant),” Novel said on Monday as quoted by CNN Indonesia.

Following claims by Rizieq’s lawyer that an SP3 had been issued in the pornography case, police confirmed that the FPI leader’s suspect status had been dropped over the weekend, citing investigators’ inability to identify the uploader of the allegedly pornographic materials pertaining to an affair between Rizieq and one of his followers which were posted online last year.

That followed an SP3 issued by the West Java Police dropping the suspect status against Rizieq in a case of defamation against the country’s founding father Sukarno and the state ideology of Pancasila.

Despite those legal obstacles being removed, as Novel noted, Rizieq still faces potential charges in several other ongoing cases. One of those cases involves Rizieq’s erroneous claim that the new Indonesian rupiah designs contain hidden communist symbols, as well as a case in which he was reported to have blasphemed Christianity in one of his sermons.

Although Rizieq has not officially been named a suspect in those particular cases, since they remain open the potential for him to be indicted is still there. Police also mentioned that the pornography case against Rizieq could also be reopened should new evidence be uncovered.

The issuing of Rizieq’s SP3 has led to a great deal of speculation as to the behind-the-scenes political bartering that made have gone into it, including one popular theory that the case against Rizieq was dropped so that the blasphemy case against Sukmawati Sukarnoputri, one of Sukarno’s daughters, could also be quietly dropped without further repercussion or hardliner protests.

Police have denied that any political bartering was behind the issuing of the SP3 and said it was done solely at the discretion of the investigators after receiving an official SP3 application from Rizieq’s lawyer.

At any rate, it seems likely that Rizieq will return to Indonesia in the near future as the other cases against him are generally seen as less likely to land him in legal hot water. If he does return, then it is hard to predict what kind of effect he could have on the national political scene. However, considering he has seemingly thrown his support behind potential 2019 presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, who has shown his readiness to employ a religion-based campaign strategy similar to the one spearheaded by Rizieq that ultimately defeated former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama in the 2017 gubernatorial election, Rizieq’s return could lead to a very ugly election season indeed.


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