Government to move Abu Bakar Bashir to a Central Java prison

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

Failed Indonesian suicide bomber who attacked priest not lone wolf

A failed suicide bomber who attempted to attack a priest during a Sunday church service in Medan, the capital of Indonesia’s North Sumatra province, confessed that he was not working alone, police said.

“The perpetrator confessed during police interrogation that someone else had ordered him to carry out the attack,” North Sumatra police spokeswoman Senior Commissioner Rina Sari Ginting said.

The assailant tried to stab Father Albert Pandiangan with an axe when the priest was standing at the pulpit, but the 60-year-old priest of Saint Joseph Catholic Church only received a minor stab wound on his left arm, the spokeswoman said.

A picture of the assailant’s identity card provided by the police identified him as 18-year-old Ivan Armadi Hasugian. Ginting said the police were searching Hasugian’s house to search for any explosive materials.

Based on an account by a member of the congregation, Nana Manullang, the perpetrator was sitting among worshippers when he prepared something that resembled a makeshift bomb, Ginting said.

Manullang, who was sitting next to Hasugian during the service, told the police she saw batteries and pipes in the teenager’s backpack. He then stood up and his backpack produced fumes, a low explosive sound and sparks.

But it didn’t stop the perpetrator to run towards the priest and attack him.

“The pastor managed to escape as the congregation restrained [the attacker],” Ginting said, adding that none of the congregation members were hurt.

Police vacated the church and secured the surrounding area to search for more evidence.

They also confiscated Hasugian’s backpack, which contained a knife, a homemade bomb and an item that displayed a logo resembling the flag of the Islamic State, but the police did not provide details whether the motive for the attack was linked to the terrorist group.

Medan church attack2

Results of a survey conducted by the Wahid Foundation in cooperation with the Indonesia Survey Institute (LSI) revealed that of 1,520 respondents across Indonesia’s 34 provinces, 72 percent of them admitted of not being radical or unwilling to be radical, while 7.7 percent admitted to willing to be radical and 0.4 percent admitted to have been involved in radical actions.

The survey, which was released on August 1, defined potential for being radicalized as participation or willingness to participate in actions that involved violence in the name of religion, namely demonstrating against groups deemed against Islamic values or launching attacks to other religions’ houses of worship.

At the heart of Europe, Indonesian oversees a Saudi mosque

Jakarta/Brussels – Syarif Abdullah Alqadrie was driving to work when a bomb went off at Zaventem airport last month. By the time the Indonesian arrived at the Great Mosque of Brussels, where he is an administrator, a second bomb exploded at the Maelbeek metro station. Continue reading “At the heart of Europe, Indonesian oversees a Saudi mosque”

Indonesia’s Densus 88 under spotlight after series of wrong arrests and casualties

Siyono’s wife Suratmi probably did the best thing she could when she asked for help from Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second largest Islamic organization, to figure out why her husband died in the custody of the Indonesian police’s counter-terrorism squad Densus 88 last month.

Along with her effort to seek for the truth through Muhammadiyah, she also handed over a bag which she said was given by Densus 88 after her husband’ death. Muhammadiyah in a press conference said the paper bag was loaded with Rp100 million (US$7,606) as a “token of sorry” to Siyono’s family.

The 34-year-old Siyono, was a resident of Dukuh village in Klaten, Central Java. He was arrested on allegations of involvement in terrorism on March 8, died in custody on March 10 and was buried three days later.

According to data from the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), he is the 121st person to have died after being arrested by Densus 88 since the elite police unit for counterterrorism was established on Aug. 26, 2004.

The unit, comprising 400-500 personnel, was established on funds by the US State Department and for some times is given credit for turning the tide in Indonesia’s fight against the terrorist organizations.

The police first told a different story about Siyono, whom they said had stashed a handgun and attacked officers while being taken by Densus 88 to a location in Yogyakarta in early March. A scuffle broke out inside the car and Siyono bumped his head, which led to his death, they said.

But an autopsy by doctors affiliated with Muhammadiyah which was conducted at the request of Siyono’s wife revealed he died from blunt trauma to the chest, which broke bones near his heart. The autopsy also found no defensive wounds on his body.

After these revelations, the national Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Anton Charliyan on April 5 told reporters the counterterrorism unit had committed several “procedural mistakes” and that this would be investigated.

The House of Representatives plans to summon the chiefs of the National Police and the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) to explain a series of deaths involving Densus 88 and terror suspects in recent years.

“The questions are whether Siyono was indeed a terrorist who warranted arrest, and whether he died because he resisted,” said Desmond Mahesa, deputy chairman of House Commission III, which oversees human rights issues, as quoted by local media.

“We plan to meet on Wednesday with the BNPT and next week with the National Police,” the Gerindra Party lawmaker said during a hearing with representatives from Komnas HAM and Muhammadiyah.

The January 14 bombings and shootings in downtown Jakarta shows that terrorism remains a threat to Indonesia’s security despite ongoing counterterrorism measures.

It has now come into the spotlight because of intensifying fears that Indonesians who have slipped out of the country to the Middle East to join the Islamic State, known as ISIS, would be coming home to wreak domestic mayhem.

January attacks in central Jakarta, which took eight lives including four of the attackers, were said to have been organized and funded by Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian computer expert believed to be in Syria. 

The police estimate, some 500 Indonesians are in the Middle East. Some 200 – mostly women and children – have been caught in Turkey and sent back to be kept under surveillance.

However, unnecessary abuses during current counterterrorism operations have highlighted the need for clearer operating procedures for the police. Alleged violations in the arrest and detention of Siyono have heightened concerns that human rights will be compromised from these counterterrorism measures is something real and must be prevented.

The government’s plan to revise the 2003 Terrorism Law has drawn concern and criticism, primarily on its potential for rights abuses. In the law’s draft revision, security institutions have wider authority to take measures against suspected terrorist.

There is also a growing concern on the rise of military involvement in the counter-terrorism effort which has been “politically given” to the police to handle.

The decision to give full authority to the police to handle terrorism instead of the military was originally to avoid civilian casualties during its process. However, too many wrong arrests and erased terror suspects has raised concerns over how the police have been handling the issue.

At the moment, around 2,000 military and police personnel are searching for the militant leader Santoso, who has publicly pledged loyalty to ISIS. He is considered the most wanted terrorist in the country, and his fighters have been on the run for more than three years in the jungles of Central Sulawesi.

The recent involvement of the Indonesian military (TNI) on the chase was after the police realized that they lacked the capability in jungle warfare to be able to do the task. Police chief Badrodin Haiti originally requested that the army raiders and Special Forces train the mobile brigade in jungle warfare.

According to a recent report from Institute for Policy analysis of Conflict (IPAC) the request was passed to the TNI chief, General Gatot, who apparently agreed but then had second thoughts – perhaps not wanting to be accused of militarizing the police and probably not wanting to weaken the case for military engagement in internal security.

The TNI then responded by sending a 60-person special forces (Kopassus) team and a 40-person combat intelligence platoon from the army strategic reserve of command (Kostrad).

Indonesia needs to move beyond security measures to fight terrorism

By Noor Huda Ismail*

Indonesian police have named a convicted terrorist, Afif Sunakim, as one of five perpetrators of Islamic State-linked bombings and shootings in Jakarta that killed eight people, including four attackers, last month.

Indonesia is considering amending its counter-terrorism laws to respond to the phenomenon of returned foreign fighters from Syria.

But fighting terrorism purely through security measures will not be enough. Indonesia should devise policies to rehabilitate and monitor former convicted terrorists to prevent recidivism. The government should also work with civil society to counter the spread of extremism online.

Preventing recidivism by ex-terror convicts

The Indonesian police have arrested more than 1200 people on terrorism charges, according to data from the counter-terrorism unit. Some convicted terrorists seemed to become more radical behind bars. At least 40 convicted terrorists have re-offended after release.

Afif Sunakim was arrested in 2010 and sentenced to seven years in jail for his role in a militant training camp in Aceh. In prison, he became the masseuse for Aman Abdurrahman, one of Indonesia’s most influential jihadi ideologues and a vocal promoter of Islamic State (IS).

My series of interviews with terrorist recidivists suggests that the majority of them believe that jihad is a religious obligation. In a purely linguistic sense, the word “jihad” means struggling or striving. It can refer to the internal as well as external struggle to be a good Muslim. However, for terrorists, jihad means to fight against Indonesia’s secular regime.

There is a common understanding among jihadists that if they are imprisoned, they are simply taking leave. Upon release, they will be ready to rejoin the movement. With this kind of belief, no matter the situation former terrorist inmates face, there is a big chance they will return to their terrorist groups and carry out further attacks.

A prominent terrorist, convicted in 2004, is an example of such recidivism. He was released in 2008. He was then involved in weapons training in Aceh in 2010. In his opinion, as long as what he believes in is right, he will have no other option than to act, whether inside or outside prison. He said: A committed mujahideen will not be limited by any condition or situation beyond himself.

Additionally, there is a desire among convicted terrorists to experiment or retry what they failed to achieve. A convicted terrorist now on the run after a prison break in Medan was involved in the Lippo Bank robbery in Medan in 2003 and again in the CIMB Niaga Bank robbery in 2010. He said: If jihad acts fail, it is most likely that improved jihad acts will be tried again later.

The choice for a released convicted terrorist is stark. Do I return to the pathway of jihad or do I re-enter society to follow a normal life? If he lives in a difficult social and economic situation, with a lack of education and a family that does not support him, it is most likely that a former terrorist inmate will return to the jihadist community, where he will be protected and cared for.

A 2013 report by the Institute of Policy Analysis of Conflict showed that Indonesia’s judicial system has insufficient funds, infrastructure and resources to handle the successful rehabilitation of former terrorists. This lack of post-detention care leaves terrorist inmates at risk of returning to violence, because they are not being properly assessed. They do not receive sufficient re-programming to prepare them to return to mainstream society.

Indonesia needs to set up special placement, supervision, development and rehabilitation programs for former terrorists. The government must train corrections officers to actively engage with former inmates, to support them in finding a new calling in life and to mentor them while doing so.

Countering radical narratives online

The second challenge is to stop IS spreading extremism over the internet.

IS propaganda has created a hype and fad among Muslim youths around the world about a fantasy idea that violent armed struggle against non-Muslims and Muslims identified as “enemies of Islam” is a “jihad” that requires urgent participation.

IS has also created a false hope and a perception that the perfect government system based on the purest Islamic principles has been implemented and is working – but that it still requires Muslims from “impure” Muslim and non-Muslim lands.

Until now the Indonesian government – let alone civil society – has made no systematic effort to challenge the arguments of jihadists on social media. The jhadists are cleverly targeting individuals at risk, mainly young people. These at-risk people tend to spend their time online rather than offline and enjoy being “liked” on Facebook.

If extremists have successfully employed social media to spread their message on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, we also need to create a campaign on social media to counter their movement. We can take a closer look at how “creative” extremists use technology to spread their ideology by monitoring their videos and reading their tweets and online posts.

With the help of civil society, the Indonesian government could launch campaigns on social media to challenge the extremist narratives.

Terrorism is rooted in a belief in an extreme ideology. If we want to prevent acts of terror from happening again, we should strive to prevent the young from being won over by extremists’ messages. We should also find a way to change the minds of those convicted of terrorism so they will not return to their old ways.

Noor Huda Ismail is a PhD Candidate in Politics and International Relations, Monash University. This article was first published by theconversation.com

Jakarta police revised civilians killed in Thamrin bombings to four

Jakarta police on Sunday revised the number of civilians casualties in Thursday’s bombings to four after one of the wounded victims who was hospitalised died late Saturday.

Jakarta police spokesman Muhammad Iqbal said Sunday the latest fatality was a man identified as Rais Karna. He was a bystander and had worked in a local branch of Bangkok Bank.

Iqbal said Rais died Saturday evening at 9.30 PM at Abdi Waluyo hospital in Menteng. Rais was shot in the head and he had been in a coma ever since the attack.

The other three civilians killed in the bomb and gun attack by suspected Islamist militants in Central Jakarta were a Canadian national identified as Tahar Amer-Ouali and two Indonesians identified as Rico Hermawan and Sugito.

Police said CCTV recording showed Rico was heading towards the traffic police post on Thamrin Street’s median strip with a policeman, who was issuing him a traffic ticket, when the post was blown up by a bomb attack.

National Police chief Badrodin Haiti had earlier said they had identified four of those killed on Thursday as attackers but they were not sure whether another body identified as Sugito was also an attacker or a bystander, however, Iqbal later confirmed that Sugito was a civilian.

“The total fatalities now increased to eight, four were civilians while four others were the attackers,” Iqbal said.

A Jakarta resident placed a banner that said #wearenotafraid during a mass rally in front of Menara Cakrawala building in Central Jakarta on Friday, 15 January 2016, the site of multiple bomb blasts that killed four civilians and four attackers a day earlier. Photo: Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

Police identified one of the four attackers as Afif, who was also known as Sunakim. He was photographed aiming his gun towards the police in the middle of Thamrin street, just right in front of Sarinah department store.

Police said he had been sentenced in 2010 to seven years in prison for being involved in a paramilitary training camp in Aceh, but was given early release.

Head of police forensic team Musyafak also revised the number of victims wounded in the bomb attacks to 26, including five policemen and 10 of them have been released from the hospitals.

The attackers blown up a Starbucks cafe in Menara Cakrawala building next to Sarinah and a traffic police post, shot policemen as well as bystanders and involved in an ensuing gunfight with the police for four hours.

Police pursuing militants after Jakarta attack

Indonesian police were hunting for Islamist militants Friday after a terrorist attack in the capital killed two civilians, as security was tightened across the country.  Continue reading “Police pursuing militants after Jakarta attack”