Firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab has admitted to having written a statement refusing to have the result of his PCR swab test disclosed last year, when he was suspected to have contracted COVID-19 from mass rallies held in his honor.
Rizieq elaborated on keeping his results hush-hush at the East Jakarta District Court today, in an ongoing trial on false swab test results by Ummi Hospital in Bogor, West Java.
“No one was allowed to disclose my test result unless with my permission. If I allowed [the medical team to do so], then [the result] could be disclosed. But as it was conveyed by doctor Sarbini, I was protected under the Health Law, the Medical Law, that I kept my swab test result private,” Rizieq said.
The former leader of the banned hardline group Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) said he issued the letter after receiving a request by Bogor City’s COVID-19 task force to hand them the results of his swab tests.
Bogor Mayor Bima Arya had previously said that Rizieq obstructed the work of his city’s COVID-19 task force during his treatment at Ummi. Bima explained that the test result was integral to contact tracing efforts at the time to prevent further spread of the coronavirus, and was not intended to be shared publicly.
Before he was admitted to the hospital, Rizieq refused the government’s request for a swab test after dozens who attended his mass rallies and events during the month tested positive. Instead, Rizieq said he took a swab test commissioned by FPI, which the group said came out negative. It was highly speculated that Rizieq had contracted the coronavirus after he was later admitted to the hospital due to “exhaustion”.
Rizieq argued that disclosing his test results would help his rivals politicize the issue, especially amid his deteriorating health at the time.
“Because I didn’t want my data to be politicized by anyone. Actually, if the outside parties came to me in a good manner, I would’ve given it. But what if I were terrorized by [political] buzzers, saying that Habib Rizieq is already dead, in a chronic condition, critical, comatose, only counting the days to his death, then what?”
A witness during today’s trial, Nuri Indah Indrasari from Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital (RSCM), said that Rizieq tested positive for the coronavirus on Nov. 28, 2020, four days after he was admitted to Ummi.
Rizieq and his conspirators were charged with multiple articles, including those under the Criminal Code (KUHP) and Health Quarantine Law, which may see him imprisoned for up to 10 years, if convicted.
Rizieq left Indonesia in 2017 and went into self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia escaping charges related to pornography back home. After the case was dropped, the firebrand cleric returned to Indonesia on Nov. 10, 2020 and was greeted by thousands of his followers at Soekarno-Hatta Airport.
FPI held several mass gatherings in Rizieq’s honor in the days that followed, including his daughter’s wedding in the group’s stronghold of Petamburan, Central Jakarta another event in Bogor, West Java — for which he was named a suspect for attracting a huge number of masses. The trial for this case will be continued tomorrow.