At least 258 inmates escaped from a prison in Indonesia’s West Papua province during a rally against the treatment of Papuan students on the main island of Java, an official said Tuesday.
Thousands of people marched in West Papua on Monday and set fire to several government buildings in response to a crackdown on Papuan students in East Java who were protesting for self-determination for their homeland on Friday.
Prisoners at the state penitentiary in Sorong city, which held 547 inmates, rioted and set parts of the building ablaze after they were provoked by protesters, said the director general of corrections, Ade Kusumanto.
The demonstrators tore down an outer wall and escaped, he said.
“The protesters threw rocks at the prison, causing the prioners to riot and attack guards,” Ade said, adding that one guard was injured in the fray.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo called for calm on Monday, saying that the government respects Papuans’ dignity and is committed to their welfare.
Police arrested dozens of the Papuan protesters during the rally in East Java but later released them.
Papuan activists said they were subjected to harsh treatment and racist abuse.
Indonesian security forces have intensified operations in Papua after separatist rebels killed about two dozen construction workers building a road in December.
Separatists have fought for independence for the region since the 1960s.
Papua and West Papua provinces make up the Indonesian half of New Guinea island.
A woman believed to be the wife of an Islamic militant detonated an explosive device during a raid on her house in Indonesia’s North Sumatra province on Wednesday, killing herself and her child, police said.
Police had surrounded the house in the town of Sibolga on Tuesday after they arrested a man believed to be the woman’s husband, identified as Husain alias Abu Hamzah, national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said.
An explosion believed to have been set off by the woman injured a policeman as officers tried to enter the house on Tuesday, he said.
A second blast went off in the early hours of Wednesday, Prasetyo said.
“The information we received is that both the woman and the child died,” Prasetyo said.
“We have not been able to enter the house because we suspect there are still explosives that could endanger our officers,” he added.
National police chief Tito Karnavian told reporters that Husain was believed to be a member of a militant network affiliated with the Islamic State extremist group.
Indonesia said its position remains the same after the US, the UK and France called on it to join forces in pressuring Syria’s Assad regime about its alleged use of chemical weapons.
Envoys from the three countries on Thursday asked to meet Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and requested that the country go further in its stance on Assad’s regime.
Arrmanatha Nasir, Foreign Ministry spokesman, told journalists on Friday that Indonesia was deeply concerned about developments in Syria after the US and its allies’ missile strikes.
Nasir said during the meeting that the three Western countries’ ambassadors conveyed their views on Syria, while Marsudi reiterated Indonesia’s position issued on Apr. 14 after the strike, which underlines the need for all parties to respect international laws and norms, in particular the UN charter on international peace and security.
Indonesia also “strongly condemned the use of chemical weapons by any parties in Syria” and called on all parties to show restraint and prevent an escalation of the deteriorating situation.
Indonesia stressed the importance of a comprehensive resolution of the conflict in Syria through negotiations and peaceful means and expressed concern about the security of civilians, calling on all parties to ensure that the safety of women and children was always a priority.
Beginda Pakpahan, an international relations lecturer at Universitas Indonesia, said that the country’s position on Syria was clear and reflected its free and active foreign policy.
“They (the ambassadors) should be aware of Indonesia’s position,” Pakpahan said.
Rene Pattiradjawane, a former Kompas daily senior journalist and foreign policy commentator, said that it was natural the three countries would seek support from Indonesia as the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.
But with its free and active foreign policy, Indonesia could not support US and its allies’ unilateral strike on Syria and it should not be interpreted as espousing either Russia or Syria.
“Indonesia sees this more as a humanitarian problem with a lot of collateral damage,” he said.
According to the Foreign Ministry, there are up to 2,000 Indonesian citizens in Syria.
Moazzam Malik, the UK’s ambassador to Indonesia, said after Thursday’s meeting that he and fellow ambassadors to Indonesia, the US’s Joseph R. Donovan and France’s Jean-Charles Berthonne, would like Indonesia to join them in holding the Assad regime accountable for the suspected misuse of chemical weapons against their own citizens and the abuse of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Malik said that since Indonesia would soon become a committee member of the Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), they would like it to put pressure on Syria and Russia to open access for the investigation in Douma.
Ahmad met his friends Udin and Ari at a mosque, and Ari asked him why he had not been around for some time.
When Ahmad said he had just returned from Syria, Ari replied in awe that he, too, wanted to go there to wage “jihad”.
When a teacher approached them and asked Ahmad the same question, Ari replied, saying: “He (Ahmad) just returned from Syria to wage jihad. Isn’t that cool?” But Ahmad told both men the caliphate propaganda was false and many innocent people had been killed in the name of the caliphate.
“They were Muslims just like us,” he said. The teacher closed the conversation by saying that Ari had learned his lesson and should understand he did not have to go far to wage jihad. The teacher then asked Ari to join him assisting elderly people.
“This is also jihad,” he said.
Ahmad, Udin and Ari are characters in an animated film entitled “Kembali dari Suriah,” or “Returning from Syria,” produced by the Center for the Study of Islam and Social Transformation (Cisform) at Universitas Islam Negeri Sunan Kalijaga in Yogyakarta. The short film — one of 20 animated clips produced to counter extremism among teenagers — was launched in Jakarta on Wednesday, following the February release of the first 20 clips in Yogyakarta.
Muhammad Wildan, Cisform’s director, said the films had been made to counter radical propaganda after earlier efforts to publish two short comics largely failed because of the poor reading habits of Indonesian teenagers.
“We decided to develop these animated short clips to expand our reach. They will be more accessible through social media,” Wildan said.
Most of the clips are between 90 seconds and three minutes long, depending on the content.
Wildan said the real challenge was to condense the message with the correct reference to Qur’an and package it in a maximum three-minute clip.
“We are careful when choosing our arguments that cite the Qur’an and the Hadith,” Wildan said.
Lecturers from the university had offered their expertise on specific subjects, he said.
Also present at the film launch was 20-year-old Nur Shadrina Khairadhania, who went to Syria as a teenager with her extended family. She shared her own account of emigrating to the so-called caliphate and explained why going to Syria to wage jihad was wrong.
Speaking to an audience of high school students, Khairadhania said that after her interest in Islam began to grow, she fell victim to ISIS online propaganda introduced to her by an uncle.
“I watched their videos, which showed that life would be really good in the caliphate. I was enticed to join,” Khairadhania said.
She convinced her father, Dwi Djoko Wiwoho, a high-ranking civil servant in Batam, Riau province, as well as her mother and two siblings, to migrate to Syria.
A group of 26 extended members of her family, including two uncles and a grandmother, left for Syria in 2015. After 19 managed to cross the border to Turkey, they quickly discovered that life in the caliphate was very different to the propaganda.
“Everything is contrary to Islamic teaching. A male family member was forced to fight and was put in detention for months when he refused,” she said.
The family tried for a year to leave and finally returned to Indonesia in August 2017.
Family members completed a rehabilitation program run by the national counterterrorism agency, but now her father and uncle are facing terrorism charges.
Rebuilding her life had been difficult because of the stigma of her past, she said.
“But God gave me a second chance to live. This is probably my jihad, to tell the truth to people so no one will be deceived like us,” she said.
Embun Diarsih had been used to being in touch once a week with her husband Ronny William, a sailor for 35 years.
But in September 2017, after William did not contact her for two weeks, she became a bit anxious and her worries were confirmed when one of his fellow sailors told her that the Malta-flagged fishing vessel on which William was working was hijacked near Benghazi, Libya.
“I hadn’t heard from my husband for two weeks, then I had a call from his friend, an Indonesian sailor who was also working on a fishing vessel in Europe, he told me that the boat in which my husband was working on had been hijacked near Benghazi,” Embun said at the foreign ministry on Monday where Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi officially handed over William and five other crew members to their families.
Embun said she immediately contacted the Indonesian authorities and told them about the abduction.
Ronny, who was speaking on behalf of his five fellow crew members Joko Riadi, Haryanto, Waskita Idi Patria, Saefudin, and Mohamad Abudi, said they sailed from Malta looking for fishing grounds in the Mediterranean Sea with seven people onboard including an Italian captain.
The Salvatur VI vessel was seized by Benghazi-based militia on Sep. 23 last year about 23 miles off the Libyan coast. The militiamen seized everything, including communication devices and the crew members’ personal belongings.
“Since the vessel didn’t have any means of communication, the Indonesian government only found out about the hijacking on Sep. 28 from the vessel’s owner, who contacted the Indonesian Embassy in Rome,” said Foreign Ministry’s director for protection of Indonesians abroad, Lalu Muhammad Iqbal.
Indonesian authorities, including officials from the state intelligence agency BIN tried to contact the militia to gain access to the crew.
In December, the Indonesian embassy in Tripoli finally secured direct access to the militia in Benghazi, which gave approval for communication with the crew.
“The communication access enabled us to get proof of lives and to monitor their condition,” Iqbal said.
Embun said that was when she was finally able to talk to her husband again after waiting for three months.
“I just waited and waited. I understand it’s a conflict area and the process was difficult,” she said.
Following months of intensive communication with various parties in Benghazi, Indonesian officials reached an understanding with them on how to extract the hostages.
“On March 27, at 12.30 local time, the six crew were handed over to us at the port of Benghazi,” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi adding that the whole process was delicate given the complex political situation in Libya.
“There were no ransom paid,” she added.
William said they survived on the run-down boat by fishing, and they asked one of the militiamen assigned to guard them to sell some of the fish they caught in the market, and to use to the money to buy rice and other provisions.
“Until December, we witnessed clashes between militia group that tried to take over Benghazi with Islamic State (IS) militants. A bomb fell not far from the boat where we were held captive,” he added.
“The port and the city are in ruins. It’s like a dead town. Decayed boats and damaged buildings were everywhere,” he said, adding that the Italian captain, who was ailing, had been rescued in October.
Retno said the Foreign Ministry is continuing to communicate with the boat’s owner in Malta.
“We will make sure that the crewmen’s rights are fulfilled,” she said.
The Indonesian government will move ailing radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir to a prison near his hometown in Solo, Central Java for humanitarian reason.
“[The decision] is final. We’ll just need to move him to Central Java,” chief security minister Wiranto told journalists on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Wiranto said the government has made the decision by taking into account the firebrand cleric’s old age and poor health without compromising the legal and security aspects. He also said that Bashir will have access to medical treatment and if necessary, the government will take him to the hospital “using a helicopter”.
Bashir will be moved from his isolation cell in Gunung Sindur prison in Bogor, West Java to a prison near Klaten in Central Java where he can be close to his family.
Earlier in the week, Ministry of Justice and Human Rights said Bashir is ineligible for house arrest. It was one of the options the government said it was considering as leniency to the ailing cleric.
“House arrest is only available for a defendant who is standing trial, while Bashir is no longer a defendant. He is a prisoner, convicted to serve time in prison,” Ade Kusmanto, a spokesman for the ministry’s Directorate General of Correction said.
Last week, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu told journalists at the state palace that house arrest for the cleric is very likely, as the government is weighing up which form of clemency it could give to Bashir. The cleric suffers from pooling of blood on his legs, a condition which requires him to undergo regular medical check-ups.
On Mar. 1, Bashir was taken to a hospital in Jakarta for treatment which his lawyer, Achmad Michdan, said had been scheduled for Nov. 2017. He is scheduled for another check up on Thursday.
President Joko Widodo said the government gave permission for Bashir to go to the hospital on humanitarian grounds.
Kusmanto said the cleric can ask the president for clemency, given that he is in poor health and will become an octogenarian this year. Another possibility is to demand parole, for which he will be eligible in June 2019 when he will have served two-thirds of his 15-year prison sentence.
Michdan said his client rules out both the options since applying for either one would mean that Bashir pleads guilty to the charges against him.
Bashir was convicted in 2011 for supporting paramilitary training in Aceh, and the firebrand cleric is described as the ideological icon of Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), including those who carried out bomb attacks in Bali in 2003.
“Bashir believes he is innocent because he was merely observing his faith as a Muslim. He was collecting money to fund training and travel for those who wanted to go as mujahideen to Palestine. He wasn’t rebelling against the country,” Michdan said.
Michdan said that it should be possible for the government to “relocate the place” where Bashir serves his sentence from Gunung Sindur prison to his house in Solo, Central Java.
He cited examples of jailed former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is serving his two-year sentence for blasphemy at a special police detention instead of a correctional facility, and East Timor resistance fighter Xanana Gusmao who had been imprisoned in Jakarta when he was fighting for East Timor’s independence from Indonesia. He was then confined to a house in Central Jakarta in 1999.
Terrorism analyst Adhe Bakti said even though house arrest is not regulated in the Criminal Procedures Code, Gusmao’s case was laden with political context at that time when East Timor was going for a referendum in which they voted for independence from Indonesia on Aug. 30, 1999.
“But the government could make a breakthrough by giving Bashir leniency to serve the rest of his sentence on house isolation based on humanitarian grounds. At least it would project a positive image of the government before the Islamists,” Bakti said.
Bakti warned that isolation remains necessary given Bashir’s revered position among militants.
“Even though he is no longer affiliated with ISIS, he still very much identified with radical teaching,” Bakti said.
This story has been updated from its original version in Arab News
There are no direct links between Indonesian militants and the leadership of IS in Syria, an Indonesian terrorism expert said on Tuesday.
Taufik Andrie, executive director of the Institute for International Peace Building in Jakarta, was speaking during a meeting about changes in the global terrorism network and the impact those changes have had on extremism in Indonesia.
He said that attacks by self-proclaimed IS-affiliated militants in Indonesia “were not always related to IS, or even to Bahrun Naim or Aman Abdurrahman,” referencing an Indonesian militant believed to be fighting for IS in Syria and a convicted radical cleric who led an IS-affiliated network from his prison cell.
“There has never been a direct link between IS in Syria with those who claimed to be affiliated with the group here,” Andrie said. “Most of those so-called acknowledgements were self-proclaimed.
“If we follow the money trail, there has been little financial support coming in from Syria to Indonesia for terrorism activities,” he said.
However, Andrie said that remnants of the Southeast Asian militant network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) — outlawed in Indonesia since 2008 — still remain, with a clear organizational structure and key figures implementing their strategies.
Nasir Abbas, a former militant who is now known as a de-radicalization activist, said the group now operates anonymously, but still works toward the same goals using a mixture of preaching and violence.
“They are still on the move, but they don’t put a name on their organization. They use a strategy, unlike other militants who think that they are waging war by being lone wolves,” said Abbas, adding that other militant groups were now emulating JI by putting a solid structure in place.
“They would try to settle in a small region and strengthen their base, preaching to the locals about their intention to establish a caliphate and making the locals believe in their propaganda,” he explained.
Abbas said the conflict-torn southern Philippines remains the go-to destination for Southeast Asian militants returning to the region after joining IS in the Middle East. He claimed they pass through the porous sea and land borders from Indonesia’s North Kalimantan province to Malaysia’s Sabah state before entering the Philippines in Basilan.
“It’s the preferred trail because there is a chain of small islands in the Sulu Sea and there are a lot of separatist groups there, which means there is an abundant supply of guns and ammunition,” he said.
Nava Nuraniyah, an analyst at the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) in Jakarta, said there has been little change in the role of women in extremist groups, particularly in Indonesian and Filipino organizations.
“Very few of them have become combatants. When they do, the reason is usually self-empowerment,” she said.
“But most of them play the role of financier, treasurer and recruiter. They manage the money because they are housewives who are also entrepreneurs,” she explained.