The notorious but politically powerful hardline party the Islamic Defender’s Front has been outlawed by Indonesia, the country’s chief security minister announced on Wednesday.
Minister Mahfud MD said the party, commonly known by its acronym FPI, was immediately barred from being successful.
Mahfud said, “The government has banned FPI activities and will stop any activities carried out by FPI,” “The FPI no longer has legal standing as an organization.”
The step follows the return in November of the spiritual figurehead of the party, Rizieq Shihab, from three years of self-exile in Saudi Arabia, celebrated by thousands of people attending events.
The return of Rizieq to the largest Muslim-majority nation in the world had fueled government fear that he might be angling to harness opposition forces.
Earlier this month, the 55-year-old cleric was arrested on charges of breaching health guidelines and remains in jail, as the country’s human rights body is investigating a deadly highway confrontation between police and supporters, which saw six of his bodyguards shot dead.
Mahfud said that since June last year, the FPI had been formally dissolved, but had continued to perform activities unlawfully.
Six senior government officials were involved in the decision to ban the party, including the attorney general, the police chief, and the anti-terrorism agency director, he said.
Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej, Deputy Minister of Justice, said the FPI was banned because nearly 30 of its leaders, members, and former members were convicted on charges of terrorism and because the party was in conflict with the ideology of the nation’s state, Pancasila, which emphasizes unity and diversity.
Founded shortly after the fall of former strongman Suharto in 1998, the FPI was known for raiding bars and brothels and harassing religious minorities, and also known for offering assistance during natural disasters. In recent years, however, its political influence has increased, particularly after its involvement in mass protests in 2016 against the former Christian governor of Jakarta, who was imprisoned for insulting Islam