A hardline Islamist cleric in Indonesia has been named a suspect in a pornography case, with police saying they have gathered sufficient evidence against the preacher.

Rizieq Shihab, who is the leader of Islam Defenders Front (FPI), is accused of exchanging pornographic messages and photographs. However, the firebrand cleric, who is currently in Saudi Arabia, has denied the allegations.

The Jakarta Police on Monday (29 May) raised Rizieq's status from witness to suspect after he failed to answer police summons twice in April and May. In a separate case, the cleric is also facing allegations that he insulted the nation's secular state ideology.

The Muslim hardliner recently played an active role in organising rallies against former Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama – a minority Christian who was removed from his position following conviction in a blasphemy case.

Meanwhile, Jakarta police confirmed that Rizieq is now a suspect in the pornography case. "At 12am today [Monday], investigators of Jakarta Police's special crimes unit increased Rizieq's status from witness to suspect," Jakarta Police spokesperson Senior Commander Argo Yuwono said. The officer added that the suspect will be charged under articles 4, 6 and 8 of Indonesia's 2008 Pornography Law.

"The main crime is participating in and transmitting pornographic content," Yuwono said in a text message to Reuters.

Rizieq's lawyer, Sugito Atmo Pawiro, who too is in Saudi with his client, said that they have been intimated about the development. "It is true. We will fight back against the police," Sugito said in a text message to The Jakarta Post.

"The investigators are being unfair and forcing their will [upon Rizieq]. Habib [Rizieq] has not even been questioned yet. They have gone too far," the lawyer added. Pawiro also said that the allegations had been fabricated by supporters of Purnama.