Jakarta, Jun 24 (EFE).- Indonesia on Wednesday granted parole to the controversial Muslim firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab, sentenced to prison last year for breaching Covid-19 health protocols.
Rizieq, co-founder of the banned hardline Islamic Defender’s Front (FPI), obtained permission to leave the prison where he had been detained since December 2020, Rika Apriyanti, a spokesperson for the corrections department, said.
The spokesperson said in a statement that the cleric fulfilled the necessary “administrative and substantive requirements to obtain remission and integration rights” under the country’s laws.
Rizieq, who returned to the country in 2020 from a self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia, was sentenced in May and June last year for spreading fake news and holding a series of mass gatherings in violation of the country’s quarantine law.
The authorities sentenced the cleric to three years and a month in prison – after a reduction in initial sentences – and fined him 20 million rupiah ($1,335), which has been paid.
Rizieq was also one of the ringleaders of protests by Islamic radicals in 2016 and 2017 against then Christian Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama before he was sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy.
The cleric left for Saudi Arabia in April 2017 facing charges of pornography and insulting the state ideology, Pancasila, which promotes unity and diversity. The charges were later dropped and the preacher returned in 2020.
Also in 2020, the Indonesian government banned the FPI because the group conflicted with the state ideology, but Rizieq remains popular with some Islamic conservatives.
Most residents of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation and the fourth-most populous country, practice a moderate Islam that coexists with other religions across the archipelago. EFE