Hardline cleric Rizieq Shihab is conditionally a free man starting today, as he has been released on parole after serving two years in prison.
The founder of the defunct Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) left Cipinang Penitentiary in East Jakarta this morning. His lawyer, Aziz Yanuar, said the controversial cleric will make a quick stop at FPI stronghold Petamburan, Central Jakarta, before holding a small celebration with his family in Megamendung, Bogor.
Having been in police custody since December 2020, Rizieq was sentenced to four years in prison in June 2021 after he was found guilty of creating public unrest by publicly announcing the result of a fake swab test.
He was also sentenced to eight months in prison for violating the Health Quarantine Law by holding a massive wedding for his daughter at the height of the pandemic, as well as being fined IDR20 million (US$1,335) in lieu of five months in prison for holding a mass gathering in Puncak, West Java. The fine has been paid.
Due to good behavior in prison and rights to sentence remissions for public holidays, Rizieq's four-year sentence was eventually slashed to two years, meaning he was due for release on June 10, 2023.
The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights further reduced Rizieq's sentence and thus allowed for his release today, under the condition that he will be on parole until June 10, 2024.
Rizieq is undoubtedly one of the most controversial figures in Indonesia in recent years. The firebrand cleric gained huge political clout among conservatives after steering hardliners to push for the eventual blasphemy conviction for Jakarta's former Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama – who is a Christian of Chinese descent – in 2017.
Rizieq was particularly popular among populist politicians during election season, though their allegiances to him faded over time as political priorities shifted. He notably fled Indonesia in 2017 and went into self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia escaping charges related to pornography, AKA the exchange of saucy messages and nudes with an alleged mistress. His return in 2020 was marked with the three aforementioned criminal convictions.