Jakarta. The Indonesian government announced Wednesday it has included hardline group Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, into the list of proscribed organizations, citing links to terrorism and violent acts against civilians.
During the announcement by Chief Security Minister Mahfud M.D., the group’s “supreme leader” Rizieq Syihab was in the Jakarta Police detention facility for violating the health protocol.
Mahfud said the FPI has been technically without any “legal standing” since June 20, 2019, when its permit expired and the government refused to renew.
"The organization has been legally disbanded but the FPI continues with activities breaching the law and order," Mahfud told a news conference at his office.
That led to a joint decision by the country’s law enforcement agencies to entirely ban the FPI effective from Wednesday, he said.
The decision was signed by National Police Chief Idham Azis, Attorney General Sanitiar Burhanuddin, Home Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian, National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) Head Boy Rafli Amar, Communication and Information Technology Minister Johnny G Plate and Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly.
All but the justice minister were present at the media briefing, which was also attended by Indonesian Military Chief Hadi Tjahjanto and National Intelligence Agency (BIN) Head Budi Gunawan.
Deputy Justice Minister Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej detailed reasons why the FPI is now a forbidden organization.
According to the government data, at least 35 members or former members of the group have been implicated with terrorism and 29 of them are convicted, Edward said.
Moreover, 206 FPI members were involved in other criminal acts and at least 100 of them were found guilty by the court, he added.
Founded in 1998, the FPI has gained notoriety for intolerant views against people of different faiths and vandalism on businesses they consider as an affront to the Islamic law.
The group was instrumental in massive rallies against Christian Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama in late 2016 and during the heated gubernatorial election the following year.
They accused Basuki of blasphemy for taking a quote from the Koran during a visit to a nearby island. The governor ultimately lost in the election marred by sectarian issues and was found guilty of blasphemy in the subsequent trial.
But FPI leader Rizieq Syihab was also facing legal troubles of his own, with charges ranging from treason and libel to alleged pornographic chats with a female supporter.
He left for Saudi Arabia in 2017 and wouldn’t return until last month, when he sparked public outrage for holding mass gatherings with disregard for the health protocol during the raging coronavirus outbreak in the capital city.
He ignored police summonses for a questioning related to the incident and a highway pursuit of his vehicle convoy led the fatal shooting of his six guards by the police earlier this month.
Rizieq later turned himself in to the police and was immediately detained.