Jakarta – At least 200 supporters of Rizieq Syihab were arrested on Thursday, hours before the controversial cleric was found guilty of spreading false claims related his medical condition and of inciting unrest and sentenced to four years' imprisonment.
Police said hundreds of his supporters were arrested for attempting to force their way to the trial venue at the East Jakarta District Court.
"More than 200 people were taken into custody at the East Jakarta Police headquarters," Chief Comr. Satria Darma, head of the Cakung police office in the city, told Antara News Agency.
Satria said a number of detainees were arrested for bringing sharp weapons, but he didn't go into details.
East Jakarta Police Chief Erwin Kurniawan said four of the supporters later tested positive for coronavirus.
The court heard that Rizieq was guilty of concealing his Covid-19 test result as he claimed in a video statement that he was in good condition and healthy, while in fact his swab test indicated possible infection of the virus last November. The video went viral in social media and was aired by several television networks.
Rizieq was reported to police for allegedly resisting attempts by the Covid-19 task force in Bogor to have him tested while he was being treated at a local hospital.
He reportedly took the test with another institution but refused to notify the result to the task force.
"The panel can convincingly say that the defendant has disseminated false information because at that time he was a probable [Covid-19] patient," Presiding Judge Khadwanto told the hearing.Rizieq responded angrily to the verdict. "I reject the verdict and will appeal," he told the hearing streamed live by the court.
Prosecutors have earlier recommended a sentence of six years' imprisonment for Rizieq.
He was already sentenced to eight months in prison last month for holding public events at his home in Petamburan, Central Jakarta, in violation to social restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The former leader of hardline group Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, already sparked controversy upon his arrival from Saudi Arabia on November 4 last year, when thousands of supporters crowded the Soekarno-Hatta Airport to welcome him with little regard for the health protocols.
Amid his row with the Covid-19 task force, Rizieq also ignored police summonses to clarify the case and things turned ugly on Dec. 7, when six FPI members were fatally shot while trying to divert a police chase from a vehicle convoy carrying the 55-year-old cleric.
Rizeq was later named suspect for breaching health protocols, followed by a government decision to include FPI into the list of proscribed organizations, citing links to terrorism and violent acts against civilians.
According to government data, at least 35 members or former members of the group have been implicated with terrorism and 29 of them are convicted.
Moreover, 206 FPI members were involved in other criminal acts and at least 100 of them were found guilty by the court.
Rizieq was sentenced to seven months in prison in 2003 after the FPI vandalized bars in Jakarta. Five years later, he again was convicted and sentenced to one and a half years for an attack on a religious freedom event at the National Monument Square in Central Jakarta.
The Thursday's hearing also convicted Rizeq's son-in-law Hanif Alatas for being an accessory in the crime and sentenced him to one year in jail.