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Politics

Indonesia bans Islamist group Hizbut Tahrir

Government wields new power to crack down on radical organizations

JAKARTA -- Indonesia on Wednesday said it revoked the legal status of Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, effectively banning the Islamist group from operating in the country.

The Ministry of Law and Human Rights said the move is based on a new regulation, imposed earlier this month, that enables the government to disband organizations whose ideologies are not aligned with Pancasila -- Indonesia's founding principles of democracy and pluralism.

Government officials called for banning HTI, an arm of the international group Hizbut Tahrir, because it seeks to establish a transnational Islamic caliphate.

"The revocation of HTI's [legal status] is not a one-sided decision, but the result of the synergy between government agencies," the ministry said in a news release.

After the revocation, HTI members could face life in prison if they are found to be carrying on the group's activities. The organization, which claims to have tens of thousands of members in Indonesia, on Tuesday filed for a judicial review of the new regulation at the Constitutional Court, according to local reports.

Previously, by law, disbanding such a group would have required judiciary procedures. But the government invoked a type of regulation called a perppu, which allows it to revise a law without approval from parliament, though such decisions may face scrutiny and rejection by lawmakers later on. The government argues it needs the flexibility to confront the threat of radical Islamist groups, but some civil rights activists see creeping authoritarianism.

The regulation was imposed after Muslim groups -- including HTI -- organized massive protests last year against Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the Christian former governor of Jakarta and a close ally of President Joko Widodo.

Purnama lost the gubernatorial election in April and is serving a two-year prison term for blasphemy.

It remains unclear whether the ban of HTI will be upheld, as parliament could still decide to reject the regulatory change.

Erwida Maulia and Bobby Nugroho in Jakarta contributed to this story.

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