JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com – Former Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla has denied rumors that he facilitated the return of Islamic Defenders Front chief Rizieq Shihab from his three-year exile in Saudi Arabia last November.
The former vice-president of President Joko Widodo and his predecessor President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono admitted that he went to the holy Muslim city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia on October 24, three weeks before Rizieq returned to Indonesia.
But he insisted that the trip was spiritual in nature.
“I went to Mecca to sign an MoU to build a museum dedicated to the Prophet Muhammad in Jakarta, following a stopover from the Vatican,” Kalla said to Berita Satu editor-in-chief Claudius Boekan, who permitted Kompas.com to quote him, on Friday, December 4.
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“I did not facilitate Rizieq’s return to Indonesia so as to clear the way for Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan to win the 2024 presidential election,” he insisted.
“I also did not bring a large amount of cash for Rizieq before he returned to Indonesia. Doing so is impractical and attracts customs officials who believe doing so is money laundering.”
Allegations of Kalla’s role in Rizieq’s return to Indonesia were voiced by former Democrat Party legislator Ferdinand Hutahaean and academic Rudi S. Kamri.
The two mentioned a ‘Charlie Chaplin’ lookalike who brought a suitcase of money for the 2022 midterm elections and the 2024 presidential race. Netizens assumed the individual was Kalla.
His daughter Muswirah has reported Ferdinand and Rudi to the police under Indonesia's Electronic Information and Transaction Law for slander.