Presidential Palace denies Jokowi’s meeting with Alumni 212 influenced police to drop Rizieq’s Pancasila insult case

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

When it was revealed last week that the West Java Police and National Police had dropped the Pancasila insult case against Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab, they did not give a satisfactory explanation as to why, leading many to speculate over the sudden legal U-turn.

One of the most prevalent theories is that President Joko Widodo himself influenced the decision in light of his meeting last month with representatives of a coalition of Islamist hardliner groups called Persaudaraan Alumni 212 (Alumni 212 Brotherhood), who consider Rizieq to be their spiritual leader. The theory was so widespread that the Presidential Palace was forced to issue a denial and say that Jokowi did not intervene in the case.

“The Investigation Termination Warrant (SP3) was issued by the National Police after they interviewed several experts, including linguistic experts,” Presidential Palace Spokesperson Johan Budi told Kompas yesterday.

Johan added that the SP3 was issued on February 18, whereas Jokowi met with 212 representatives on April 29.

That said, Johan admitted that 212 asked that Jokowi drop the criminal charges against Rizieq, to which the president replied that he can’t intervene in criminal investigations.

The West Java Police confirmed that the SP3 was issued in February, supposedly over a lack of evidence incriminating Rizieq.

But many would say that the evidence against Rizieq is as clear as day, or at least clearer than many other defamation/blasphemy cases in Indonesia. In January 2017, the West Java Police named Rizieq a suspect in the desecration of a state emblem based on statements Rizieq had made about two years prior during a sermon in West Java in which he supposedly said, “In Sukarno’s Pancasila, God is located in the ass, whereas in the Jakarta charter of Pancasila, God is in the head.” He was reported to the police by Sukarno’s daughter, Sukmawati Soekarnoputri, who herself had to deal with religious blasphemy accusations over a controversial poem recently.

Rizieq is currently in Saudi Arabia, where he has been hiding from the Indonesian police for over a year after being named a suspect in a high profile, highly ironic pornography case. Though he has teased his potential return to Indonesia on numerous occasions, he has so far disappointed many of his followers as he remains steadfast in his refusal to return while he’s a criminal suspect. In one instance after deciding against his homecoming, he said, “it’s better than I’m called a coward who’s running away, instead of gallantly returning to Indonesia and then being arrested.”

In light of recent developments, Rizieq’s lawyers have filed an SP3 request with the Jakarta Metro Police to drop their client’s pornography case.

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