Farouk Arnaz & Heru Andriyanto, Jakarta – A self-proclaimed Muslim preacher who was being detained for alleged defamation died for illness on Monday evening, a National Police spokesman said.
Soni Eranata, who called himself Ustaz (Muslim preacher) Maaher At-Thuwailibi, has been in police custody since early December for allegedly insulting a respected cleric on his Twitter posts. He died at the age of 28.
Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Argo Yuwono said Soni had reported deteriorating health condition during in custody and was admitted to the Police Hospital in Kramat Jati, East Jakarta.
After treatment for four days at the hospital, the detainee was declared fit and sent back to the police custody last week, Argo said in a statement. He said doctors will inform the public about Soni's health issue.
"Regarding his illness, the medical team knows better," Argo said. He didn't go into detail about the surrounding circumstances when the detainee was found dead.
Djuju Purwantoro, an attorney for the deceased, said his client was pronounced dead at around 7.00 p.m. Djuju confirmed that Soni had frequently visited doctors at the Police Hospital for medical treatment prior to his death.
Soni's wife Iqlima Ayu said in an interview with Detikcom last month that he had suffered intestinal infection for around a year. The family has requested that he was transferred to a private hospital, but was turned down by the police.
During a video interview from the detention facility with the same news website on Dec. 5, Soni said he was treated well and "served good food", and that the officers who handled his case are "very kind people".
He was arrested at his home in Bogor, West Java over a complaint that he had insulted Habib Luthfi bin Yahya, a respected cleric of the country's largest Muslim group Nahdlatul Uama.
The complaint relates to his August Twitter post in which he carried the photograph of Luthfi wearing a Muslim headdress with a caption reading: "Yes, [he] looks more beautiful with this veil."
However, more serious public condemnations could be traced back years earlier, especially in 2017 when he said "the government is the enemy of Islam", after it became clear that the Joko Widodo administration planned to disband Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, a regional movement that seeks to establish a caliphate.
In November 2019, pro-government activist Permadi Arya aka Abu Janda lodged a police complaint against Soni, accusing him of sending murder threat via Twitter post.
In November last year, Soni in a tweet called artist Nikita Mirzani a "whore" and threatened to send 800 people to her home after the woman involved in a war of word with another controversial cleric, Rizieq Syihab.
In another tweet, Soni indicated that prominent Muslim figure Gus Miftah was a "whore lover".