Indonesian court deals blow to banned hard-line group

Judges rejects bid by Hizb ut-Tahrir to overturn government disbandment order
Indonesian court deals blow to banned hard-line group

Controversial Muslim cleric, Muhammad Rizieq Shihab, delivers a speech during a protest in Jakarta in this Oct. 14, 2016 file photo. (Photo by Ryan Dagur/ucanews.com)

An Indonesian court has rejected a lawsuit from a hard-line Muslim group appealing against its disbandment by the country's the Law and Human Rights Ministry.

The ruling was yet another nail in the coffin of Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), which openly advocated the setting up of a caliphate in Indonesia.

Hizb ut-Tahrir was ordered disbanded on July 17 last year under a newly introduced law regulating mass organizations.

In its ruling on May 7, the Jakarta Administrative Court agreed with the government that the activities of the group were against the national secular ideology of Pancasila or Five Principles.

"We reject the petition of Hizb ut Tahrir and it must not conduct any activities from now on," said Tri Cahya Indra Permana, head of the judicial panel.

He said evidence proved beyond doubt that HTI was looking to undermine the state ideology, citing a "caliphate conference" the group organized in 2013.

The HTI was not [an Islamic] congregation but a political party," the panel said. 

More than 800 group members following the hearing outside the court responded angrily to the ruling, shouting "caliphate, caliphate, caliphate."

HTI chairman Rochmat S. Labib said the group's activities were in line with Islamic teaching.

"We are very disappointed with the decision," Labib told ucanews.com, and accused the court of committing a big mistake because it is clear that establishing a caliphate is part if Islamic teaching.

"Caliphate is part of Islam and it is in the Quran," he said.

Abu Jibril, a Muslim cleric, agreed. 

"A caliphate is part of Islamic teaching and we have an obligation to teach that", he said.

Muhammad Junaidi, a company employee in Jakarta said he welcomed the ruling.

"I disagree with presence of this organization. Indonesia is a multi-religious and multi-ethnic country he said when asked his thoughts.

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Azas Tigor Nainggolan, from the human rights desk of the Indonesian bishops' Commission for Justice, Peace and Pastoral for Migrant-Itinerant People said HTI violated the mass organization law, which obliges organizations to respect the state philosophy.

"In future, the government should be careful when approving the establishment of mass organizations so that they do not threaten national security," he said.

It was not clear May 8 whether HTI would appeal the ruling in the Constitutional Court.

Meanwhile, police have dropped a defamation charge against controversial Muslim cleric, Muhammad Rizieq Shihab.

The leader of Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) — Indonesia's most notorious hard-line group — was accused of insulting the country's secular ideology Pancasila and the country's founding father the late president Soekarno.

Soekarno's daughter, Sukmawati Soekarnoputri, filed a lawsuit against Shihab in January last year.

He was accused of saying in a sermon that in Soekarno's Pancasila, "God is placed in the ass," when God should be in the head.

Police said there was not enough evidence to charge him.

Petrus Selestinus, a Catholic and chairman of a lawyers' group set up to defend Pancasila, expressed disappointment at the decision, saying it will encourage groups looking to undermine secularism in Indonesia.

"The termination of this case will provide fresh fuel for hardliners to act arbitrarily," he said

Shihab, who fled to Saudi Arabia more than a year ago, is still wanted in Indonesia on a pornography charge related to lewd text messages allegedly exchanged between him and a woman who was not his wife.

Catholic students have also filed a blasphemy complaint against the cleric for allegedly mocking Christ's birth.

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