Indonesia jails cleric over false COVID info

An Indonesian court jailed hardline Islamic cleric Rizieq Shihab on Thursday (June 24) for four years for spreading false information in a YouTube video, saying he was healthy despite having tested positive for COVID-19.

The verdict comes after an eight-month jail term handed last month to Rizieq for breaching coronavirus curbs over several mass events.

The judge said Rizieq, the spiritual leader of the outlawed Islamic Defender's Front, was guilty of "announcing false information and purposefully causing confusion for the public."

Hundreds of Rizieq's supporters had gathered outside the East Jakarta court amid heavy police guard.

Officers fired tear gas to disperse the crowds, who fought back with rocks and plastic bottles.

Shortly after being sentenced, Rizieq told the court he rejected its ruling and would contest it.

His supporters and legal team say the cases are politically motivated efforts to silence the cleric, who has a large and vocal following in the world's biggest Muslim-majority country.

Indonesia passed the 2 million mark in coronavirus cases on Monday (June 21), as authorities announced a tightening of restrictions to contain the spread in the world's fourth most populous country.