BIN denies being behind Rizieq's 'extremist flag' questioning in Mecca
The Jakarta Post
The State Intelligence Agency (BIN) is dismissing suggestions that it was responsible for getting firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab investigated by Saudi authorities over the alleged installation of an extremist Islamist flag at his house in Mecca.
"There is no evidence that BIN had installed the flag [at Rizieq's] house, let alone took the picture [of the flag] and reported it to Saudi police," BIN communications and information director Wawan Hari Purwanto said in a statement on Thursday.
Rizieq, the leader of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) who has been in self-exile in Saudi Arabia, was recently questioned by local security authorities over allegations that he was flying a black flag resembling that of extremist Islamic groups behind his house.
Wawan said the accusations that the Indonesian spy agency orchestrated the incident by installing the flag and reporting it to authorities were merely baseless rumors.
"The accusation that claimed BIN had orchestrated [Rizieq's] arrest was a hoax," he said.
Rizieq was detained at a nearby police station for a questioning about the flag on Monday afternoon. The Indonesian consulate in Jeddah immediately provided him legal assistance and he was released on bail at about 8 p.m. local time on Tuesday.
The cleric is known to be one of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's staunchest critics and an ally of presidential contender Prabowo Subianto.
Wawan said the spy agency never had any problem with Rizieq's political position. "For BIN, there is no such thing as 'criminalization' because all Indonesian citizens are equal before the law."
Saudi Arabia has banned the installation of flags and other materials resembling those used by extremist groups, including the Islamic State (IS) group.
Rizieq has been in Saudi Arabia for more than a year. In September, the Indonesian Embassy in Riyadh said the cleric had overstayed his visa in the country, according to a statement issued in response to complaints from his supporters who claimed that restrictions had been imposed on his activities in Mecca.
The FPI leader had been charged by Indonesian police with violating the 2008 Pornography Law in May 2017. By then Rizieq had fled to Saudi Arabia and refused to return to Indonesia, despite being summoned by police several times. The police dropped the case in June, citing a lack of evidence. (afr)
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