July 24, 2021

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Indonesian cleric jailed 4 years for concealing COVID-19 test results

Muslim cleric Rizieq Shihab (C), leader of the Indonesian hardline organisation FPI (Front Pembela Islam or Islamic Defenders Front), gestures to supporters as he arrives to inaugurate a mosque in Bogor on November 13, 2020. (Photo by ADITYA SAPUTRA / AFP)

In 2018, police dropped the charges, which Shihab said were trumped up because of his political activity and criticism of the government.

An Indonesian court on Thursday sentenced a firebrand Islamic cleric to four years in prison for concealing his COVID-19 test results and denying a government request for access to the information.

It was the second jail sentence in as many months for Muhammad Rizieq Shihab, who is an opposition figure and has been vocal in his criticism of the government of President Joko Widodo.

Last month, Shihab and five of his followers were sentenced to eight months in prison for flouting coronavirus restrictions by organising a wedding for his daughter last year.

In Thursday’s verdict, judges at the East Jakarta District Court found Shihab guilty of spreading false news by denying that he had COVID-19.

His action “caused public disturbances,” chief judge Khadwanto said.

The judge said Shihab rejected a request by the government’s COVID-19 task force to have access to the result of his COVID-19 test, which was taken at a hospital near Jakarta.

The director of the hospital is also on trial for his role in the alleged cover-up.

Shihab is the founder of the Islamic Defenders’ Front, a vigilante group known for its anti-vice campaign.

After Shihab was arrested in December, the government announced that the group was an outlawed organization, saying its activities disturbed public order and some of its followers were involved in terrorism.

Shihab returned home in November after spending three years in Saudi Arabia to evade police questioning on charges he exchanged lewd online messages with a female supporter.

In 2018, police dropped the charges, which Shihab said were trumped up because of his political activity and criticism of the government.(dpa/NAN)

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