Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab, who has been in self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia for over two years, signaled yet another intention to return to Indonesia in time for a planned event to celebrate a hardline Islamic movement.
Rizieq’s lawyer, Sugito Atmo Prawiro, said his client, who fled to Saudi Arabia in April 2017 to escape a highly ironic pornography investigation (which has been dropped, but there are other pending criminal charges against the firebrand cleric awaiting investigation), wants to go home as soon as possible.
Sugito said that Rizieq wants to attend the 212 Reunion event, which will celebrate the third anniversary of the Dec. 2, 2016 (which is why it is referred to as the 212 protest) massive hardliner-led protest against former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama for his alleged blasphemy. Rizieq missed the first two anniversary events in 2017 and 2018.
However, Sugito acknowledged that Rizieq’s homecoming is easier said than done, reiterating a conspiracy theory created by their group that alleges that the Saudi and Indonesian governments have put up obstacles for the cleric’s return.
A couple of weeks ago, Rizieq posted a video on Youtube in which he showed what he claimed to be a document preventing his departure from Saudi Arabia, signed by local authorities.
“The departure ban from the Saudi authorities is still an obstacle. Surely they wouldn’t issue such a ban if there was no intervention from [the Indonesian] government,” Sugito said.
The government has repeatedly denied Rizieq’s claims, the latest of which came from Indonesia’s chief security minister Mahfud MD — whose office oversees the immigration office.
“There is no report of a ban. Rizieq did not report his problems [to the authorities]. We heard through Youtube. If he does not report, how would we act?” Mahfud said yesterday.
Mahfud said Indonesian diplomats are ready to help Rizieq with any legal problems he may have in Saudi Arabia.
There is still a slight possibility that 212 reunion event may not even take place this year. Though Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan has reportedly given his official permission that the event can take place in Monas (The National Monument) on Dec. 2, there have been widespread calls for it to be prohibited, including, most notably, by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the highest clerical body in the country. High ranking officials in the central government have planned for meetings to discuss the matter in the coming days.