Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab continues to attract controversy since his return to Indonesia, with reports alleging that he escaped from the hospital amid a messy COVID-19 test drama.
Rizieq was last week admitted to Ummi Hospital in Bogor, West Java for exhaustion, those close to him said, as a number of people he came in close contact with during mass rallies and events in the past few weeks tested positive for the coronavirus. FPI claimed that they commissioned independent testing on Rizieq before he was admitted to the hospital, and the test came out negative.
Nevertheless, with Rizieq refusing government-mandated testing and uncharacteristically shying away from the public eye for a week, many doubted FPI’s claim. When the firebrand cleric was admitted to Ummi on Thursday evening, the Bogor city administration reportedly pressured Rizieq to carry out a swab test at the hospital.
Instead, an NGO called the Medical Emergency Rescue Committee (MER-C) was allegedly called in to test Rizieq, bypassing Ummi’s protocols. The organization has since refused to publicize Rizieq’s test result citing medical ethics considerations, despite continued pressure from the Bogor city administration and Ummi.
On Sunday morning, Okezone broke the news that Rizieq and his wife had escaped from the hospital the previous evening amid the swab test drama. The news outlet reported that Rizieq slipped quietly through the hospital’s back door.
FPI has since confirmed that Rizieq has returned to his residence in Petamburan, Central Jakarta, but the group did not confirm whether he escaped or was discharged by the hospital.
The Jakarta Metro Police yesterday encountered FPI foot soldiers guarding the entrance to the cleric’s residence as they issued a letter of summons to Rizieq, who is scheduled for questioning tomorrow regarding his mass rallies in the past few weeks.
Coordinating Political, Legal and Human Rights Minister Mahfud MD has called on Rizieq to fulfill the summons if the cleric has nothing to hide regarding his health.
Rizieq returned to Indonesia on Nov. 10, ending more than three years of self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia escaping charges related to pornography, and was greeted by thousands of his followers. Several crowded events in Jakarta and Bogor followed in the coming days, from which COVID-19 clusters comprising dozens of people each have emerged.
Muhammad Idris, a candidate for mayor in the city of Depok, was notably photographed embracing Rizieq to welcome the cleric home on Nov. 13. The politician last week tested positive for the coronavirus.
Jakarta Deputy Governor Ahmad Riza Patria, who met with Rizieq in person immediately following his return, has also tested positive for the coronavirus, the former confirmed today. However, the deputy governor said that he was infected by a staffer, not Rizieq.