The leader of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), Rizieq Shihab, the man who was instrumental in having former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama sentenced to jail on blasphemy charges and who Gerindra party head (and likely 2019 presidential candidate) Prabowo Subianto personally thanked for “saving Indonesia’s democracy”, is currently in Saudi Arabia to avoid questioning by the Indonesian police. Now he is saying (through his legal representative) that he might not return to Indonesia at all, at least while current president Joko Widodo is still in office.
“Habib (an honorific title for a respected Islamic preacher that Rizieq gave himself -ed) is considering not going back to Indonesia, Habib might not come home until Jokowi is no longer President,” said Sugito Atmojo Pawiro, Rizieq’s attorney, on Wednesday as quoted by Tribun.
After failing to answer two police summons for questioning in relation to a pornography case related to leaked information alleging Rizieq engaged in an adulterous affair with a married woman, police issued an order for the FPI leader to be forcibly detained for interrogation. Rizieq missed the first summons while claiming to be on the Umrah pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, before traveling to Malaysia and then back to Saudi Arabia, this time with the explicit purpose of avoiding police questioning in a “symbolic” act of opposition to legal injustice, saying the case is baseless and politically motivated.
FPI poster explaining all of the reasons why Rizieq is running away from the police
In relation to Rizieq’s consideration of not returning to Indonesia while Jokowi is in power, Sugito said that his client was targeted by a certain group after Ahok was defeated in last month’s election, led by the president and the head of his political party, PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Sukarnoputri.
Sugito asserted that the two were afraid of Rizieq and his ability to mobilize the Muslim masses against them, especially before the 2019 presidential elections. He also said the police had become their political tool.
In relation to these claims, his lawyer previously stated that Rizieq would be meeting with the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva to seek protection from this perceived political persecution, although there is no evidence that the UNHCR has in fact agreed to receive him.
Meanwhile, back in Indonesia, the woman that Rizieq allegedly had the adulterous affair with, Firza Husein, was officially named a suspect in the pornography case stemming from a leak of sexually explicit documents supposedly detailing their relationship. Police say they have enough evidence to authenticate and connect Firza to the documents.
Police have not yet taken the step of issuing an Interpol “red notice” asking for other countries to cooperate in the capture and detainment of Rizieq, though they have discussed it. Deputy Foreign Minister Abdurrahman Mohammad Fachir said his ministry was willing to help the police to repatriate Rizieq once a red notice was issued.
“If the police issue a red notice we will communicate to the country concerned,” Fachir said at Gadjah Mada University on Wednesday as quoted by Tempo.
Saudi Arabia officially cooperates with Interpol but this does not necessarily obligate their law enforcement officers to actively track down and detain Rizieq were Indonesia to issue a red notice. It’s possible that the FPI leader could be a fugitive from Indonesian justice for a long time.