Jakarta – Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Indonesia, Esam A. Abid Althagafi, has said Saudi authorities are currently in negotiation with their Indonesian counterparts on issues surrounding Islam Defenders Front (FPI) head Rizieq Shihab, who is currently staying in the Middle Eastern country.
The firebrand cleric previously claimed he could not return home to Indonesia because of a ban against him issued by the government.
"This issue is currently [being] negotiated by high officials of the two countries. We hope this will be solved soon," Esam told journalists after a meeting with Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD in Jakarta on Monday.
The ambassador said he did not discuss Rizieq during his meeting with Mahfud, adding that they only talked about the cooperation between the two countries as well as general Islamic affairs.
Rizieq had claimed in a video aired by Indonesian Islamic channel Front TV on YouTube that he could not come back to Indonesia because authorities had issued a letter prohibiting him from entering Indonesia. Such letters are usually issued by the immigration office.
Rizieq's son-in-law Hanif Alatas later showed a letter in Arabic during a press conference, claiming the letter was from Saudi Arabia's immigration office. The letter explained to Rizieq that he was not allowed to leave Saudi Arabia based on two order letters, one dated June 15 last year and one on Dec. 7 last year. The reason for the prohibition was "security".
Esam refused to answer when asked whether the ban came from the Indonesian government.
The Indonesian Immigration Office recently denied that the government had issued the prohibition order against the firebrand cleric.
Minister Mahfud said he was not involved in any negotiations pertaining to the fate of the firebrand cleric in Saudi Arabia. However, he did not dismiss the possibility of a negotiation on the Rizieq issue.
"There might be one [negotiation]. There are many parties in the government: 34 ministries and the two highest officials," Mahfud said.
Prior to leaving for Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for umrah (minor haj) in 2017, Rizieq was charged by the police in connection with a pornography case and for insulting state ideology Pancasila.
The police dropped both cases last year, but the FPI leader has remained in Saudi Arabia despite his visa having expired in July 2018. (kuk)