Jakarta – Firebrand cleric and Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab, who currently resides in Saudi Arabia, has claimed that he has been "exiled" by the Indonesian government and he cannot return home because the latter has barred him from doing so.
Muslim activists staged on Monday a reunion of participants of the 2016 anti-Ahok rally in Central Jakarta, commemorating the third anniversary of a protest on Dec. 2, 2016 – hence the 212 rally name – demanding the prosecution of then-Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy.
Rizieq, who was one of the driving forces behind the 2016 rally, gave a welcoming speech through a video played in front of thousands of participants who had flocked to the National Monument in the heart of the capital since 3 a.m. on Monday.
In the video, Rizieq apologized to the rally participants because he could not attend the reunion himself since "I am still banned [from returning] by the Saudi Arabian government for security reasons as per the request of the Indonesian government."
Rizieq claimed that former Saudi Arabian ambassador to Indonesia, Osama bin Mohammed Abdullah Al Shuaibi, had told him that Saudi authorities were "willing" to return him to Indonesia. However, he told Rizieq to "ask for the stance of the Indonesian government" himself, the cleric quoted Shuaibi as saying.
He went on to cite the statement of Esam A. Abid Althagafi, the current Saudi Arabian ambassador to Indonesia, who recently revealed that Saudi authorities were negotiating the issue surrounding Rizieq with their Indonesian counterparts.
"The statements from the two envoys serve as enough evidence for us to see that the ban against me [returning] is proof that I have been exiled by the ruling regime in Indonesia," Rizieq said as quoted by kompas.com.
He further rebuffed Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD's previous statement which suggested that Rizieq had never officially filed a report about his situation with the Indonesian government.
Rizieq claimed the Indonesian Embassy in Riyadh had sent a high-ranking official of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) to Mecca to meet him. The representative had also asked for copies of Rizieq's passport and visa, he claimed.
Mahfud said last week that Rizieq – who has stayed in the Middle Eastern country since he went there for umrah (minor haj) in 2017 – had never reported his problem to the government.
The minister had also denied allegations that Jakarta had issued an order prohibiting Rizieq from returning home, in line with the statement of the Indonesian immigration office.
Prior to leaving for Mecca, Rizieq was charged by the police in connection with a pornography case and for insulting state ideology Pancasila. Both cases were dropped by the police last year, but the FPI leader has remained in Saudi Arabia despite his visa having expired in July last year. (gis)