“Rahman” and his four colleagues were apprehended by the National Police’s Densus 88 counterterrorism personnel in a house in Pejaten, South Jakarta, in 2010.
The house was the regional headquarters of the Jamaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT), whose leader Abu Bakar Ba’asyir was subsequently sentenced to 15 years in prison for funding military training in Aceh.
Rahman, then an office boy at the JAT office, was released after spending seven days in jail and undergoing “intimidating questioning” sessions. The police failed to tie him to terrorist activities.
However, the police have never issued any apology nor provided any compensation to help ease both the mental and physical damage he may have incurred from the arrest.
Rahman is among dozens of people arrested and subsequently released whose situation has been largely ignored even though they may have been harshly interrogated or even abused.
According to Yayasan Prasasti Perdamaian (YPP), a foundation that facilitates rehabilitation efforts for former suspected terrorists or terrorist convicts, 33 people have allegedly been wrongfully arrested by Densus 88 since 2010.
YPP researcher Taufik Andrie said recently the number of wrongful arrests had become serious.
“Being associated in some way with terrorists does not make one a terrorist,” he said.
Taufik said victims of wrongful arrest or police questioning had not received any rehabilitation or compensation after their release, even though some had allegedly been tortured and denied legal representation during their interrogations.
Apart from the trauma, the stigma of being taken in for questioning in relation to terrorism often sticks.
Since his release, Rahman said his life had changed dramatically. Simply joining Koran reading groups had become difficult, as both old and new friends distanced themselves from him. Old friends thought he was an intelligence agent for the police, while new acquaintances believed he was a terrorist.
“My problems got worse as I felt I was being spied on by the authorities. They often called me to ask me my whereabouts and what I was doing,” Rahman said.
Frustrated, he decided to move to Bandung with his entire family, saying he had to start his life from zero.
High-school student Davit Anshary, 19, is the latest victim in the list of innocent people being arrested.
He said he was still traumatized after being arrested by Densus 88 last month and spending seven days in jail. “What was traumatizing was when they raided my house, cuffed my hands and put a mask over my head,” Davit said.
Davit claimed the police treated him well including during their interrogation about his relationship with a terrorist suspect, someone he knew from Facebook and who later spent several days at Davit’s house.
Achmad Michdan, a lawyer for the Muslim Defenders’ Team representing Davit, has asked the police to clear his clients’ name and apologize to him, even though there are no specific rules regarding people who have undergone police questioning without being charged. “We want to remind the police to be more professional.”
Since the Bali bombings claimed 202 lives in 2002, the authorities have detained more than 700 suspected terrorists and accomplices. More than 60 terrorists have been shot dead by the police.
Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation, is still engaged in an intense fight against terrorism that has stemmed from various splinter groups of Jamaah Islamiyah, the al-Qaeda affiliate
behind the Bali bombings.
In such a fight, more arrests are expected and more collateral damage is likely to ensue.
National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said that people like Rahman and Davit were not victims of “wrongful arrest”. He said they were merely questioned and were, therefore, not entitled to rehabilitation as otherwise stipulated in the Criminal Law Procedures Code.
The interrogation period allowed under the Terrorism Law lasts for up to seven days, not two days as is the case for suspects in regular crimes.
Boy argued that as long as the police did not declare a person a suspect, he or she was not technically “wrongfully” detained.
“These people were with terrorist suspects when we caught them, so we had to check them as well. We will release them after seven days at the latest if we lack evidence.”
Boy said rehabilitation in such cases was unnecessary as police were “just trying to gain information”. The perception of “wrongful arrest” was wrong, he said.