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Muslim Cleric Who Led Protests Against Ahok Wanted by Indonesian Police for Sexting Scandal

Rizieq Shihab, the leader of the Muslim hardliner group that led the massive protests against Jakarta’s outgoing governor Ahok (Basuki Tjahaja Purnama), is being hunted by Indonesia police for engaging in racy chats with girlfriend Firza Husein.
Leader of hardline Muslim group Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) Rizieq Shihab walks to meet the call of the Criminal Investigation Police during an investigation of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahja Purnama in Jakarta, Indonesia, November 3, 2016 Reuters

Rizieq Shihab, the leader of the Muslim hardliner group that led the massive protests against Jakarta's outgoing governor Ahok (Basuki Tjahaja Purnama), is being hunted by Indonesian police for engaging in steamy chats with girlfriend Firza Husein.

The leader of Islam Defenders Front (FPI) was reportedly involved in a sexting scandal with Husein, a political operative, who exchanged nude photos with him on WhatsApp, according to the Straits Times.    

Rizieq, a Muslim cleric, has been wanted for questioning for a pornography investigation, but has ignored the summons issued by the police. The first investigation was scheduled April 25, the second on May 17. Rizieq did not show up both times.

The police issued an arrest order for Rizieq to be forcibly detained for interrogation. However, reports say he went on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. He then went to Malaysia, and then back to Saudi Arabia.

Argo Yuwono, spokesman for the Jakarta police, confirmed the Muslim cleric had been sighted in Jeddah.

"We are now coordinating with Interpol and immigration," he said.

A local media outlet reported that Rizieq is not planning on going back to Indonesia while Joko Widodo is president.

"Habib is considering not going back to Indonesia, Habib could not come home until Jokowi is no longer President," Sugito Atmojo Pawiro, a lawyer for Rizieq, said, according to Tribun Manado.

He said his client will consider going back to Indonesia but only under certain conditions. He added that Rizieq will not go back until "the law is upright to be fair to all," implying the influence of "interests of power."

Firza's lawyer Azis Yanuar said they are ready to confront the case knowing that it is "slanderous and was engineered." However, he failed to give any detail as to who could be behind it or why.

Azis claimed his client was not the one who engaged in racy conversations with Rizieq on WhatsApp. Firza also maintained she was not the woman in the pornographic photos. However, an expert hired by the police said the photos and the chat conversations were authentic, according to Tempo.

Firza is charged with pornography. If convicted, she could be imprisoned for five years or more.

The police are also investigating Firza's friend, Kak Emma, whose name repeatedly appeared in the conversations.

Kapitra Ampera, a lawyer for Rizieq, claimed the case is merely slander and an attempt to destroy his client's reputation.

"It is an attempt to ruin his image, so that the Muslims don't believe in him," he said, according to Tempo.

Rizieq was the staunchest critic of Ahok, Jakarta's outgoing Christian governor who is now serving a two-year prison sentence for blasphemy.

Ahok was seeking reelection and was the leading contender for the post until Muslim hardliners, led by Rizieq, began attacking him by telling voters it is not lawful to elect a non-Muslim.

The controversy against Ahok erupted when he was accused of blaspheming the Quran in one of his speeches. His opponents uploaded a video of the speech on social media, which quickly went viral and launched massive protests that pressed for Ahok's arrest for the alleged blasphemy. However, reports claimed the video was edited.

Ahok lost in the gubernatorial election and shortly after was declared guilty of blasphemy. He is now being held in a high-security prison compound in Depok. He was the second Christian governor in Jakarta in 50 years. 

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