Fri, 11 Apr 2003

Rizieq evades prosecution: Police

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The police are searching for Islam Defenders Front (FPI) chairman Al Habib Muhammad Rizieq Shihab, who fled to Jordan on April 7 en route to Iraq, even though he had been placed under house arrest.

"We will search for him, both abroad and throughout the country, using the help of Interpol if necessary," city police spokesman Sr. Comr. Prasetyo told reporters.

Rizieq is a suspect in the acts of vandalism against nightspots and entertainment centers in the city over the past three years. The latest incident took place on Oct. 4 last year, when more than 400 FPI members attacked a discotheque and two billiard centers. Two people were injured in the incident.

He is also charged with making offensive statements against the government and insulting government officials.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to a maximum of seven years in jail.

Rizieq had been detained at police headquarters, but was released and placed under house arrest in November, with the condition that he would provide a compulsory report of his whereabouts to the police every Monday and Thursday.

His case was just submitted on Wednesday to the Jakarta Prosecutor's Office.

Meanwhile, Rizieq had failed to report to police in the last two weeks. The police sent him an initial summons requiring him to come to the station on Monday, but he ignored the summons.

"We have sent the second summons asking him to appear here on Wednesday," Prasetyo said.

One of Rizieq's lawyers, Mahendradatta, promised that they would bring their client to police headquarters before 11 a.m. on Thursday.

But the lawyers arrived bringing with them only copies of Rizieq's passport and a visa to Jordan issued on March 23.

The FPI had earlier mobilized their members and supporters for a jihad to defend the Iraqis in the U.S.-led war.