The West Java Police have arrested a preacher named Rahmat Baequni for his alleged role in perpetuating a hoax positing that hundreds of election workers in last April's election died because they were poisoned.
Rahmat conveyed the conspiracy theory in a recent religious sermon, footage of which has gone viral online. In it, he alleges, without providing proof, that traces of an unnamed poisonous gas were found in the bodies of the election workers upon autopsy. He said that whoever poisoned the election workers supposedly did not want them to testify to the fact that the election had been rigged.
More than 300 election workers – most of whom were volunteers – died shortly after the April 17 election. There has been no definitive official report outlining in detail the causes of their deaths, but the government has said that most died due to exhaustion and the exacerbation of existing medical conditions from working extremely long hours during the election.
Police arrested Rahmat close to midnight yesterday, with the preacher reportedly still at West Java Police HQ where he is still facing questions from investigators.
The National Police have confirmed Rahmat's arrest and said they would provide more information regarding his case later this afternoon.
Through a close friend, Rahmat sent a text message to reporters this morning apologizing for spreading the hoax.
"I apologize to the authorities of Indonesia and to the people, including the General Election Commission (KPU), I did not mean to spread the hoax," Rahmat wrote as picked up by Detik, saying that he was only relaying information he heard on social media.
"Once again in the name of Allah I did not mean to spread the hoax."
Rahmat shot to infamy recently after a video clip from another one of his sermons went viral. In that video, he gives a sermon, complete with a slide presentation, accusing West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil, who is also an architect, of designing a mosque using triangular shapes in tribute to the Illuminati. Rahmat did not provide any evidence for that conspiracy theory either, and Ridwan has denied his accusations.