Hard-line Muslim leader named in Indonesia defamation case

AP News
Posted: Jan 30, 2017 10:03 AM

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian police say the leader of a hard-line Islamic group behind massive blasphemy protests last year is a suspect in a case alleging he defamed the state ideology.

West Java police spokesman Yusri Yunus said Monday that police have sufficient evidence against Islamic Defenders Front leader Rizieq Shihab, including video and expert opinions.

The protests late last year against the minority Christian governor of the capital, Jakarta, rocked the government of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

Yunus said Rizieq's alleged offenses can be punished by prison time of more than four years.

Indonesia's state ideology, Pancasila, promotes five principles — belief in God, humanitarianism, nationalism, democracy and social justice. It was established by the country's founding president Sukarno, who died in 1970.

The case against Rizieq stemmed from a report to police by Sukarno's youngest daughter following a YouTube sermon in which the cleric said the position of God in Sukarno's Pancasila was in the buttocks.

He is also facing an investigation by Jakarta police for allegedly defaming the national currency with a comment that new bank notes contain a symbol of communism.

The Islamic Defenders Front has a long record of vandalizing nightspots, violently protesting Western influences and attacking minorities and rival religious groups. It seized a national stage with the protests against Gov. Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who is now on trial for allegedly insulting the Quran.

The majority of Muslims in Indonesia, a nation of more than 250 million people, practice a moderate faith.