Jakarta, Dec 30 (efe-epa).- Indonesia has banned the controversial but popular radical group the Islamic Defender’s Front that in recent years staged several anti-government protests in the country, officials said Wednesday.
The government order to force the group, known by its acronym FPI, to stop carrying out any type of activities came into force from Wednesday, said Mahfud MD, the coordinating political, legal, and security affairs minister.
The government disbanded the group in June 2019, but it continued to carry out activities unlawfully, said the minister.
The registration of the group expired on June 20, 2019, and the license was never extended after that.
The authorities also point out that at least 29 members of the FPI, founded in 1998, were convicted in various terror cases, and at least another six have been accused of related crimes.
The ban came after Indonesia’s radical Muslim cleric Rizieq Shihab returned home in November from Saudi Arabia. He was in exile from 2017 after being accused of pornography charges that were later dropped.
Rizieq, 55, is the group’s spiritual figurehead and its co-founder.
Mahfud made the announcement in a press conference also attended by six senior government officials, including the home minister, the attorney general, intelligence head, police chief, and the head of counter-terror agency.
The government also screened some “disturbing” videos, which linked the radical group to violent practices.
A clip, recorded in the Indonesian region of Pamekasan, showed followers of the group simulating acts of beheading.
Another showed Rizieq expressing his support for the global terror network Islamic State in a 2017 speech.
The authorities also cite it as one of the reasons to ban the PFI.
More than 100 followers of the FPI have been convicted of other criminal offenses, the authorities said, accusing the extremist group of carrying out illegal raids against the so-called anti-Islam practices.
Rizieq was detained on Dec.13 for allegedly breaching Covid-19 health protocols by holding mass gatherings in November, days after he returned home.
A defender of Islamic Sharia law and opposed to secularization, Rizieq was jailed for seven months in 2003 for encouraging his supporters to attack nightlife venues in Jakarta.
In 2008, he was sentenced to a year and a half in prison for inciting his supporters to attack another group calling for freedom of belief in Indonesia.
Rizieq was also one of the ringleaders of protests by Islamic radicals in 2016 and 2017 against the then governor of Jakarta, the Christian Basuki Tjahaja Purnama before he was sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy.
He left for Saudi Arabia in April 2017 when Indonesian police were investigating explicitly sexual messages the cleric had allegedly exchanged with a follower on WhatsApp.
After his exile and failing to appear before authorities, police filed formal charges for violating pornography law and for violating the founding ideology of the Indonesian state Pancasila that promotes national unity.
However, the charges were dropped in mid-2018, allowing the preacher to return.