JAKARTA: Indonesia has banned the controversial but politically influential hardline group the Islamic Defenders Front, the country's chief security minister announced on Wednesday (Dec 30).
Mahfud MD said the group, widely known by its acronym FPI, had been officially outlawed, effective immediately. FPI is led by firebrand Islamic cleric Rizieq Shihab, a controversial figure in Indonesian politics, who was arrested earlier this month.
"The government has banned FPI activities and will stop any activities carried out by FPI," Mahfud said. "FPI no longer has legal standing," he added.
Shihab recently returned home on Nov 10 from a three-year exile in Saudi Arabia after criminal charges including a pornography case were dropped.
Television footage showed thousands of men, women and children, many wearing white Islamic robes, chanting "God is Great" as they marched and filled a major road to the airport's arrival gates. They halted traffic along the way to the airport.
On Dec 12, the cleric turned himself in to Indonesian authorities after he was accused of inciting people to breach COVID-19 pandemic restrictions by holding events with large crowds.
Jakarta police spokesman Yusri Yunus told a news conference the day before that Shihab is accused of ignoring measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 by holding an event to commemorate Prophet Muhammad’s birthday and the wedding of his daughter last month that pulled in thousands of his supporters.
He said Shihab could face up to six years in prison if found guilty of inciting people to violate health regulations amid an outbreak, and of obstructing law enforcement.