Controversial Islamic cleric and leader of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) Rizieq Shihab was arrested on Saturday after undergoing questioning in a case pertaining to the alleged breaching of COVID-19 restrictions by staging several mass gatherings.
Police investigators questioned Rizieq on Saturday afternoon until past midnight before placing him in custody at one of the Jakarta Police’s detention centers for the next 20 days.
“This is to facilitate the investigation,” National Police spokesperson Insp. Gen. Argo Yuwono said as quoted from kompas.com.
The Jakarta Police named Rizieq a suspect on Thursday for allegedly violating COVID-19 protocols by hosting events that pulled in thousands of people last month after his return from self-exile in Saudi Arabia.
Read also: Rizieq named suspect for crowded events
Rizieq is charged under Article 160 of the Criminal Code on incitement of criminal acts that is punishable by up to six years of imprisonment and Article 216 on the obstruction of criminal investigation, which carries a prison sentence of up to four months and two weeks.
Before he was named a suspect, Rizieq had at least twice defied police summons for questioning as a witness. The firebrand cleric surrendered to the Jakarta Police on Saturday and fulfilled a police summons for questioning at the Jakarta Police headquarters.
Argo said the arrest was applicable to criminal charges that carry penalties of five years in prison or more, adding that it was also to prevent Rizieq from fleeing, destroying evidence or breaching the coronavirus restrictions again.
Rizieq denied that he had been in hiding, saying he had been staying at his Islamic boarding school in Megamendung, Bogor, West Java, with occasional visits to the Sentul area and his house, as well as FPI’s headquarters in Petamburan, Central Jakarta, to see his children and grandchildren.
The arrest came nearly a week after a fatal incident that killed six FPI supporters and Rizieq’s bodyguards during an alleged altercation at a section of the Jakarta-Cikampek toll road in the early hours of Dec 6.
Investigators had reportedly been tailing him and his entourage because of a tip claiming Rizieq and his followers were planning to evade police questioning, which is considered an obstruction of justice.
The police and the FPI issued different accounts of the incident, with the police arguing that the officers had defended themselves from a life-threatening attack launched by FPI members, while the group claimed that none of its members were carrying weapons and that the shooting violated police protocols.
In a video statement on Sunday, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo asserted that the country operated based on the rule of law and that, therefore, the law should be obeyed and enforced to protect the interests of the people and the nation.
“It is the duty of the law enforcement officers to act firmly and fairly in enforcing the law; and remember that they are protected by the law in performing their duties,” he said, adding that they were also obliged to follow procedures.
“For this reason, there should not be any citizens who act arbitrarily and violate the law and harm the public and the nation,” he said. (dis)
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include Jokowi’s comments.