Tag: Lalu Muhammad Iqbal

Indonesian sailors survived six months held captive by Benghazi militia

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.

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Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and ministry’s director for protection of Indonesians abroad Lalu Muhammad Iqbal had a chat with the crew family members at the foreign ministry on Monday, April 2, 2018. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

“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.

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Indonesian sailors rejoiced as they were released from their captors in a Benghazi port on Mar. 27, 2018 after being held captive in one of the vessels there for six months. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

“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 original story was published in Arab News

 

Indonesians faking as Philippine pilgrims face scrutiny upon arrival

Indonesian pilgrims returning from Mecca are soon arriving in the country and celebrating their new status as Hajji, but many have seen their wishes to bear the venerable title shattered or may face questions on the validity of their pilgrimage after they resorted to go on the pilgrimage illegally, including posing as Philippine citizens.

The Indonesians faking their identities as Filipinos are expected to be among the first three batches of 1,049 pilgrims that the Philippine authorities and an Indonesian technical assistance team will scrutinize as they arrive in Manila on Monday.

The Indonesian team, comprised of immigration, religious ministry and police officials, would help to expedite deportation of Indonesian citizens who might be found among those arriving, after the Philippines authorities suspected hundreds of the arrivals could be Indonesians and Malaysians, who were using Philippine hajj passports.

“We would assist to verify their identities and determine if they are really Indonesian citizens, because their names and identities are being withheld by the Philippine immigration office,” Heru Santoso, a spokesman for the immigration office said.

The team was sent after the Foreign Ministry last week dispatched a special team to Manila. Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, the ministry’s director for the protection of Indonesian nationals and entities abroad who led the team said they held a series of meeting on Wednesday with a task force set up by the Philippine government to deal with the illegal hajj case.

“The meeting agreed on the flow of handling the pilgrims when they arrive in Manila. We expect the flow would ensure that the pilgrims could be deported as soon as possible,” Lalu said in a statement on Thursday.

The first in a string of hajj scams involving Indonesians emerged from the Philippines on Aug 18 when immigration officials at Ninoy Aquino International Airport arrested 177 Indonesians who were about to board their flights to Saudi Arabia. The officials became suspicious when none of them could speak any Filipino dialects despite listing Jolo in the southern Philippines as their addresses. It turned out they were Indonesians using legally obtained Philippine hajj passports but with fake identities and they were going to leave using Philippine’s unused hajj quota.

Further investigation to the case revealed that there could be up to 700 Indonesians that went on the pilgrimage posing as Filipino pilgrims, though many of them could also be Malaysians. In addition, another group of 229 Indonesians, comprised of 155 women, 59 men and 15 minors were detained by the Saudi authorities. They were arrested in two different locations for overstaying and not having the proper hajj permits.

The government has maintained since then that they are victims of hajj scams involving a syndicate in Indonesia and the Philippines, which exploited Muslims eager to skip the lengthy waiting list that could extend as far as 2055 and would go at any length to secure a spot to go to Mecca. President Joko Widodo and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte reaffirmed this view when the latter visited Jakarta on Sep 9.

A majority of the 177 Indonesians arrested in Manila – half of them were from South Sulawesi – have returned, while nine of them stayed behind for investigation purposes.

Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals Association (ICMI) secretary general, Muhammad Jafar Hafsah urged the government to improve its hajj management and impose stricter evaluation on the annual event.

Jafar said in a statement that it has become normal for many Indonesian pilgrims to register to go on hajj through other countries.

“There are also hajj travel operators that use fake visas from other countries. This is a work of mafia and a very serious crime. How could they manipulate this religious ritual to be an illegal trip implicating other countries,” Jafar said.