Jakarta. Rizieq Syihab, the self-proclaimed supreme leader of hardline group Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, arrived at the Jakarta Police headquarters for a questioning on Saturday after he was named a criminal suspect over allegation of violation to the health protocol during the coronavirus pandemic.
The news followed a series of dramatic events including the killing of his six followers by police during a highway chase five days ago.
He is charged under the Criminal Code for inciting others to commit a crime or violent resistance to authorities or disobedience of the existing laws.
The criminal charge is pressed against him after he held a wedding party for his daughter attended by many guests at the family’s home in Petamburan, Central Jakarta last month.
Five other FPI members were also named suspects in the case for their role in arranging the wedding. They came to the police headquarters along with Rizieq.
Police said the gathering violated physical distancing rules imposed during the outbreak.
Last month, a senior Health Ministry official announced that at least 80 people who attended the wedding party and a religious event led by the FPI leader in Tebet, South Jakarta have tested positive for the virus.
“The Health Ministry encourages anyone who has attended any of the events or had close contacts with those attendees to self isolate for 14 days,” Budi Hidayat, the ministry’s director general of disease control and prevention, said at that time.
Rizieq returned home on Nov. 10 after spending two years in Saudi Arabia. His arrival already drew controversy as thousands of supporters flocked to the Soekarno-Hatta Airport in Banten to welcome him, many without face coverings.
Several high profile figures have tested positive for coronavirus after meeting Rizieq in person in separate occasions.
They included Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan and his deputy Ahmad Riza Patria, although it cannot be confirmed if they caught the virus from the meeting. Both were confirmed to have contracted the virus around three weeks after they met Rizieq.
Rizieq, 55, has ignored two police summonses that led to the deadly incident on Monday. Six officers who were following a vehicle convoy carrying Rizieq clashed with the cleric’s bodyguards in one of the cars.
Police fatally shot all the six people in the car over a claim that they opened fire at them and threatened with machetes. The FPI dismissed the claim and said the slain members of the group’s special guards were unarmed at the time of the incident.
The group also said the officers were in plain clothes and used an unmarked car as they chased the convoy.
Three days later, the Jakarta Police named Rizieq a criminal suspect and vowed to arrest him.