THIS Dec 12 file photo shows Rizieq Shihab (centre) waving at reporters as he turns himself in to police.—AP
THIS Dec 12 file photo shows Rizieq Shihab (centre) waving at reporters as he turns himself in to police.—AP

JAKARTA: An Indonesian court sentenced on Thursday hardline Muslim cleric Rizieq Shihab to eight months in prison and fined him 20 million rupiah ($1,400) for breaching coronavirus curbs after his return last year from self-imposed exile.

A livestream of the court hearing showed Rizieq, the spiritual leader of an outlawed Islamist vigilante group — the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) — dressed in a white tunic, turban and face mask, clutching prayer beads.

Judge Suparman Nyompa handed Rizieq the prison term for violating the health quarantine law in relation to several mass events, including his daughter’s wedding, which was attended by thousands.

Separately, he was fined for an event held at an Islamic boarding school in West Java.

Prosecutors had sought a two-year prison sentence for inciting his followers to attend mass gatherings, though he was cleared of this charge.

Some 3,000 police officers were deployed to guard the courthouse in East Jakarta ahead of the verdict, but there were no big protests by his supporters.

Rizieq came back to Indonesia in November after three years in Saudi Arabia, where he had fled while facing charges of pornography and insulting the state ideology. Both charges were later dropped.

Thousands of his followers had thronged the airport to celebrate his return, and then joined mass events in the days that followed despite rules to limit gatherings as Indonesia grappled with the worst coronavirus outbreak in Southeast Asia.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2021

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