Jakarta. Indonesian prosecutors on Thursday recommended a sentence of six years’ imprisonment for controversial cleric Rizieq Syihab for allegedly lying about his Covid-19 test.
The case was part of a series of criminal trials he has been facing since returning from Saudi Arabia last November.
Prosecutors told the East Jakarta District Court that Rizieq had released a recorded statement claiming that he had no health issue, while in fact he had Covid-19.
The video containing his false statement was aired by several news networks and reported in many news websites, the court heard.
During the time, Rizieq was being treated at Ummi Hospital in Bogor, West Java, for Covid-19 but hospital officials shrouded his medical condition in secrecy.
"The defendant was fully aware that he got Covid and was by no means healthy, in contrary to the video statement that he deliberately distributed to the public,” according to the prosecution document read in turn by prosecutors.
They said Rizieq’s denial of his own medical record has put the community at risk, considering that the defendant had attended several events involving thousands of people.
"We demand that the panel of judges convict the defendant of illegal dissemination of fake news.”
Prosecutors described Rizieq as ill-mannered throughout court hearings and cited his past criminal convictions when reading out the demand.
Rizieq earlier admitted to preventing hospital officials from revealing his medical records, saying he was worried they would be “politicized” by his opponents.
Hospital director Andi Tatat is being tried separately.
Prosecutors also recommended a two years’ imprisonment for Rizieq’s son-in-law, Hanif Alatas, for being an accessory in the crime.
Rizieq, 55, is the “spiritual leader” of now-defunct hardline group Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).
He was sentenced to eight months in prison last week for holding public events at his home in Petamburan, Central Jakarta, in violation to social restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thousands of people reportedly attended the wedding party of Rizieq’s daughter and a commemoration for Prophet Muhammad birthday in Petamburan several days after his arrival.
He was also slapped with a Rp 20 million ($1,400) fine for attending an event at an Islamic boarding school in Bogor, West Java that attracted a big crowd with little regard to health protocols.
Rizieq turned himself in to the police on Dec. 13, six days after a police chase led to the fatal shooting of six FPI members in a Jakarta suburb. Police argued that they were pursuing a vehicle convoy carrying Rizieq when a car tried to block them on the toll road.
Two FPI members were killed on the spot, while four others died later in what police described as defense action as the suspects allegedly resisted arrest and tried to grab police guns while in the car.
The National Commission for Human Rights have launched investigation and recommended criminal trial against the officers involved.
Rizieq was sentenced to seven months in prison in 2003 after the FPI vandalized bars in Jakarta. Five years later, he again was convicted and sentenced to one and a half years for an attack on a religious freedom event at the National Monument Square in Central Jakarta.