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            [post_content] => Jakarta. Rizieq Shihab, leader of the hardline group Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, skipped a Jakarta Police summons on Tuesday (25/04), when the firebrand cleric and other witnesses were expected to answer questions regarding a pornographic texting scandal.

Rizieq's lawyers filed a notice with police that the cleric would not attend the summons, according to Jakarta Police deputy chief Brig. Gen. Suntana.

Other key witnesses skipped Tuesday's questioning as well, including Rizieq's reported girlfriend Firza Husein and Muchsin Alatas, leader of FPI Jakarta.

Rizieq was reported to police for allegedly violating the 2008 Information and Electronic Transactions (ITE) law by purportedly exchanging pornographic material with Firza over the popular messaging service WhatsApp.

"We're investigating Firza as well [...] We've also reminded them [FPI] not to bring a crowd [to the investigation]. We ask all citizens who have been summoned by the police for questioning to appear," Suntana said.

"We heard Firza will not be appearing today. We will summon the witnesses a second time. Again, no need to send in a crowd with them," he said.

In January, a group of students calling themselves the Alliance of Anti-Pornography Students reported to the police a series of photos and videos which they claimed were exchanged between Rizieq and Firza.

The website that hosted the scandalous photos has since been blocked as the Jakarta Police escalate their probe into the matter.

Rizieq and Firza have both said the photos on the website were fake and denied responsibility for the exchange of illicit material over WhatsApp.

Watch Indonesia Highlights at 8 p.m. tonight on the Jakarta Globe News Channel and Facebook Live to find out more about FPI Rizieq’s alleged involvement in the pornography case.
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                            [title] => Ketua FPI Habib Rizieq memasuki ruang sidang pada sidang peninjauan kembali terpidana Abu Bakar Ba'asyir di Pengadilan Negeri Cilacap, Jateng, Selasa (26/1).
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            [post_content] => Jakarta. Retired general Prabowo Subianto expressed gratitude to firebrand Muslim cleric Rizieq Shihab for "saving Indonesia's democracy," after Anies Baswedan and his running mate Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno won Jakarta's gubernatorial election on Wednesday (19/04).

Several quick counts from pollsters showed a large-margin win for Anies  backed by the Prabowo-led Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra)  over incumbent Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama in an election marred by religious and ethnic tensions.

In the evening after Wednesday's vote, the Anies-Sandiaga campaign team performed prayers alongside members of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and its leader, Rizieq, at the Istiqlal Mosque in Central Jakarta.

"Rizieq and the Muslim community, just like us, have defended the interests of the Indonesian public, upheld justice and saved our democracy and our future," said Prabowo, a failed candidate in the 2014 presidential election.

Anies, a former education minister sacked by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo less than two years after taking office, called on the country's Muslim community to maintain tolerance and respect for the nation's diverse religious and ethnic groups.

"We have to show that the Muslim community is the one who upholds peace and unity," Anies said.

The FPI, notorious for vigilante acts across the archipelago, led several mass demonstrations calling for the removal of Ahok as governor in the run-up to Wednesday's election.

Its members and other hardline Muslim groups in the country claim that Ahok, currently standing trial on blasphemy charges, insulted Islam when he made a comment last year against the use of the Koran for political advantage.
            [post_title] => Prabowo Expresses Gratitude to FPI Leader for 'Saving Indonesia's Democracy'
            [post_excerpt] => Retired general Prabowo Subianto expressed gratitude to firebrand Muslim cleric Rizieq Shihab for "saving Indonesia's democracy" after Anies Baswedan and his deputy Sandiaga Salahuddin Unowon secured Jakarta's gubernatorial election on Wednesday (19/04).
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            [post_content] => Jakarta. Legal counsel for Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama rejected testimony by expert witnesses for the prosecution in the incumbent Jakarta governor's blasphemy trial on Tuesday (28/02).

One of Ahok's lawyers, Teguh Samudera, said the two witnesses – Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab, and criminal law expert Abdul Chair Ramadhan – are both closely involved with the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI).

Teguh said testimony by the two expert witnesses will incriminate Ahok because it was biased due to their close ties with the MUI.

The MUI issued an edict against Ahok last year over comments he made about a Koranic verse, which resulted in blasphemy charges against him.

In protest, Ahok's lawyers did not use their opportunity to question the two expert witnesses, which resulted in the 12th session of the trial ending earlier than usual.

"Firstly, expert witnesses said things related to the gubernatorial election, as well as intentional and planned issues in the case. Those were beyond the topics that should be covered by expert witnesses. Secondly, the expert witnesses both said the same things. Even since the beginning, when Basuki proposed an apology to MUI chairman Ma'ruf Amin, the [two] witnesses rejected the apology and issued a public statement to that effect. So, we thought it was not proper anymore to question those expert witnesses, due to a possible conflict of interest," Teguh said after the hearing.

State prosecutors indicated that they have presented all their witnesses, which means that Ahok's lawyers will present their witnesses during the next session of the trial.

"We will not use our right to present more [witnesses]. The principle is sufficient with what have been said in the testimonies, that we will leave it to the judges," state prosecutor Ali Murkatono said.

Presiding judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto closed the session and scheduled another for Tuesday next week at 9.00 a.m.

Ahok is back in office after his return from mandatory leave following the Jakarta gubernatorial election on Feb. 15, while Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo decided not to suspend him despite the ongoing trial.

The minister said the only time Ahok can be suspended before a verdict is reached, is if prosecutors demand a prison sentence of more than five years.

Article 83 of the 2014 Regional Government Law states that regional heads may be suspended if they have been charged with any crime that carries a prison sentence of more than five years.

However, the charges against Ahok involve less than five years' imprisonment.

Ahok referred to a Koranic verse during a speech on Pramuka Island in Jakarta's Thousand Islands district in September last year, which resulted in the blasphemy charges against him.

Watch more on Indonesia Highlights 8pm tonight at Jakarta Globe News Channel
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            [post_content] => Jakarta. Rizieq Shihab, leader of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, has asked the National Police to include law expert Yusril Ihza Mahendra as a witness in one of the cases against him.

The West Java Police previously named Rizieq a suspect for allegedly having insulted the Pancasila state ideology.

National Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Martinus Sitompul said investigators will assess whether the expert witness is competent in his field.

"We will accommodate whoever is proposed [by the suspect]. But it should be in the legal field. For example, if [the suspect] proposed an expert on construction in this case, it will not be relevant," Martinus said on Friday (24/02).

"Mr. Yusril is [working] in the field of state administration. The procedure will include an assessment, as [investigators] will observe the discipline. Also, his educational and work history," the spokesman added.

According to Martinus, an expert witness will not be rejected as long as it is related to the legal case and has the skills needed, although investigators has the authority to deny any witness.

Rizieq reportedly also insulted Indonesia's first president, Sukarno, and mocked the decision by the country's secular and religious leaders in 1945 to drop a line in Pancasila obliging Indonesian Muslims to follow Islamic law.

Rizieq's public remark prompted Sukarno's daughter, Sukmawati Sukarnoputri, to report him to police in October last year for the alleged insult against Pancasila. He could face up to four years in prison if found guilty.

This is just one of several criminal cases Rizieq currently faces.

He is also under investigation for allegedly illegally occupying state land in Megamendung, a subdistrict of Bogor, West Java. The cleric is further implicated in an alleged plot against the government in December last year, while he is also facing other lawsuits brought against him by various groups.
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Chief Security Minister Wiranto met with Rizieq Shihab to discuss mass prayer preparations on February 11.

[post_title] => Wiranto Meets Islamic Defenders Front [post_excerpt] => Chief Security Minister Wiranto met with Rizieq Shihab to discuss mass prayer preparations on February 11. 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Rizieq Shihab, leader of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, will answer a police summon to be interrogated as a suspect in a charge of insulting Indonesia's state ideology Pancasila on Monday (13/02), his lawyer said. The fireband cleric previously failed to attend two summons on Tuesday and Friday after being named suspect for insulting Pancasila and defaming the country's founding father Sukarno. "If nothing goes wrong, we will answer the summon from the West Java Police," Rizieq's lawyer Ki Agus Muhammad Choiri told state news agency Antara on Saturday. Agus also said that Rizieq will not bring his supporters to the West Java Police headquarters in Bandung on Monday as suggested by the police. Separately, West Java Police spokesman Chief Comr. Yusri Yunus confirmed Rizieq's plan to answer the summon. "Yes, we've been informed. It will be good to see him on Monday," Yusri said. One of Sukarno's daughters, Sukmawati Sukarnoputri, reported Rizieq to the police in October last year for an alleged insult against Pancasila. He could face up to four years in prison if found guilty. He allegedly also insulted Indonesia's first president, Sukarno, and mocked the decision by both secular and religious leaders back in 1945 to drop a line in the Pancasila obliging Indonesian Muslims to follow Islamic law. 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"[I was hit] in the stomach and on the shoulders. They hit me with their hands, while some kicked my legs," said Ucha, a Metro TV cameraman. Dino, a cameraman working for Global TV, said he was intimidated by protestors while filming the mass prayer inside the mosque. He said he was accosted by a group of people who accused him of being impolite by calling Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab by name. "I was questioned; surrounded. They told me all TV [reporters] should say 'Habib Rizieq,' not only Rizieq. They said it loudly," Dino said. The situation was brought under control when members of the military stepped in to protect the media crews. Thousands of Muslims participated in the so-called 112 rally, led by the Indonesian Muslim Forum (FUI), to demand that a Muslim leads Jakarta instead of incumbent Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama. 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Screenshots of text messages and nude photos exchanged on WhatsApp, supposedly between Firza and Rizieq, went viral on social media. "There was a questioning," Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Argo Yuwono said in Jakarta on Thursday (09/02). Members of the Jakarta Police's cybercrime sub-directorate questioned Emma at the Depok Police headquarters in West Java, as it is closer to her residence. A group calling itself the Alliance of Anti-Pornography Students earlier reported a website, which published details and photos of the alleged conversation, to police. The website has since been blocked. The Jakarta Police have escalated their probe into the matter and they will issue an official letter to start the investigation and name the suspects. Rizieq and Firza have both called the website a hoax and denied that it was them who are depicted in the screenshot of the WhatsApp chat. 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Yusri said the police will send a second summon on Wednesday.

Aside from having been charged with insulting Pancasila, Rizieq is also facing several lawsuits simultaneously.

Among others, he has been investigated for being involved in an alleged plot against the government and is accused of illegally occupying a state-owned land in Megamendung, Bogor, West Java.

The police had considered to detain Rizieq as soon as he was named a suspect. But West Java Police Chief Insp. Gen. Anton Charliyan said several requirements have to be met before the police can detain their suspects, including the possibility that the accused might interfere with witnesses, tamper with evidence, attempt to flee or commit more crimes.

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