Bachtiar Nasir, the former chairman of the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council's Fatwa (GNPF-MUI), is reportedly in Saudi Arabia to attend an event at the invitation of the Muslim World League. (Antara Photo)

Bachtiar Nasir Flees to Saudi Arabia, Skips Questioning for Third Time

BY : FAROUK ARNAZ & CHRISTIAN LEE

MAY 14, 2019

Jakarta. Bachtiar Nasir, the former chairman of the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council's Fatwa, or GNPF-MUI, again skipped questioning in a money-laundering case on Tuesday.

This is the third time Nasir, whom police have declared a suspect, failed to show up. Investigators initially summoned him last year and again on Wednesday last week, before postponing it until Tuesday.

Nasir's lawyer Aziz Yanuar said his client was in Saudi Arabia at the invitation of the Muslim World League. He was unable to say when Bachtiar would return.

"[He is attending an event] in Saudi Arabia. I will provide proof of the invitation later. I don't know yet [when Bachtiar will return to Indonesia]," Aziz said.

Police have threatened to take him into custody, which they are legally allowed to do after a suspect fails to show up for questioning three times.

"Today, investigators received information from the attorney of the person concerned that he could not be present because he had to attend an event overseas. Therefore, investigators said [they will act in accordance with] Article 112, Paragraph 2, of the Criminal Code," National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo said.

Article 112 of the Criminal Code states that "a person summoned is obliged to come to the investigator, failing which, the investigator shall issue a second summons with an order to the official in charge to bring the person to him."

This means  the police will immediately take Bachtiar into custody once he arrives back in Indonesia.

"The investigators will coordinate with the relevant stakeholder when they have receive information that the person concerned has arrived in Indonesia. In accordance with the Criminal Code, the investigators will then conduct an investigation," Dedi said.

The police spokesman added that they were sure Nasir would return to Indonesia soon.

"Communication with his attorney is good and investigators believe the person concerned has good intentions. We hope that as a good citizen, he will obey the law and respect the ongoing legal process. He is on his way home," Dedi said.

Facts on the Case

Nasir was involved in the Justice for All Foundation (YKUS), established in 2014 to collect public donations for religious and social purposes.

There are two other suspects in the case: Adnin Armas, the foundation chairman, and Islahudin Akbar, a former employee of BNI Syariah, the shariah-compliant subsidiary of the Bank Negara Indonesia.

Nasir had control over Rp 3 billion ($208,000) in the foundation's bank account. He admitted that a portion of the money was used to fund the so-called 411 and 211 rallies against former Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama in 2016, and said the remainder went to earthquake victims in Pidie Jaya in Aceh, and flood victims in Bima and Sumbawa, West Nusa Tenggara.

According to the 2001 Law on Foundations, a foundation's asset management must be authorized by its management and not by individuals. However, Adnin gave Nasir power of attorney to open a bank account on behalf of the foundation.

There were two bank accounts. The first belonged to the foundation and it was used to collect public donations. The other was opened on behalf of the foundation, but without the knowledge of its management. This account was used to divert the funds.

At the time, the donations collected amounted to Rp 2.1 billion. Marlinda, Nasir's assistant, withdrew the money, but the Shariah Banking Law stipulates that withdrawals of more than Rp 1 billion can only be done inside the bank's branch office where the account was opened.

However, Nasir's friend Islahudin, who was employed by the bank at the time, broke the law to help facilitate the withdrawal. He handed the money to Marlinda, whose job was to take care of Nasir's personal expenses.

Police suspect there was a transfer of funds from Indonesian Humanitarian Relief (IHR), a foundation headed by Nasir, to the Istanbul-based Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İHH).

The allegation first emerged from a Facebook post by an account named Moch Zain in 2016. In the post, Zain said aid supposedly sent by the IHR to residents of Aleppo in Syria was actually destined for Jaysh al-Islam, a Syrian rebel group.

He came to this conclusion after watching a video on YouTube that showed food packages labeled "Indonesian Humanitarian Relief" arriving in an area under Jaysh al-Islam's control.

However, allegations that the group has links with Islamic State are apparently false. Jaysh al-Islam has expressed opposition to the radical group.

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