Law and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsuddin says security in the nation’s penitentiaries will be boosted to avoid more pledges of allegiance (baiat) among terrorist convicts to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The government earlier confirmed that 24 terrorist prisoners at Pasir Putih Penitentiary, Nusakambangan, Central Java, including firebrand Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, pledged their support to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIL, on July 18, from the penitentiary’s prayer room.
The picture of Ba’asyir and other supporters of ISIL circulating on the Internet shows the group in white Muslim garb while one of them holds an ISIL flag.
Amir said prisoners were not allowed to conduct such political activities, including using symbols of ISIL, as the militant group had engaged in violence in the border area of Iraq and Syria.
“We have regulations and it is not particularly about ISIL. If prisoners or guards breach these regulations, there will be punishment,” he said on Monday at the State Palace.
The ministry’s penitentiary directorate general security and orderliness director, Bambang Sumardiono, said that he had deployed a team to investigate the photograph.
“Bringing camera or hand phone into the facility is prohibited. We will enhance surveillance at the facility. Considering that the government has banned ISIL movement, we will also prevent inmates from taking bai’at to ISIL,” he said in a telephone interview.
Amir denied lax discipline in prisons and for the incident at Pasir Putih Penitentiary he said he would take firm action with respect to the guards and the prisoners involved in pledging support.
“We will transfer and postpone promotions for the guards that allowed [the incident] and isolate the [involved] prisoners. I will officiate the punishments soon,” said the Democratic Party politician.
Before the circulation of the photograph, members of Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) who have visited him in the prison have passed Ba’asyir’s personal approval to ISIL although they have claimed that it does not represent the group’s stance.
The ministry’s director general of penitentiaries, Handoyo Sudrajat, said that from a total of 43 terrorism prisoners, 24 had participated in the pledge of allegiance.
“They did it together. Ba’asyir declined to pledge at first because he said he wanted to see how things progressed, but he finally bowed to [others’] requests,” he said as quoted by tempo.co.
Although acknowledging the urgency to curb similar endorsements from local extremist groups, Amir said the government could not revoke citizenship for those who joined ISIL as the group was still considered a rebel group, not a state.
The Citizenship Law stipulates that a person will lose citizenship if, among others, he or she joins a resistance group against the legitimate government.
The Criminal Code (KUHP) also states that a person who joins a resistance movement against the legitimate government can be jailed.
“We cannot revoke their citizenship because [the Citizenship Law] also applies a condition in which the person is enlisted in an active military force or pledges allegiance to other states. In this matter, there are no states involved,” said Amir.
He added that so far none of the Indonesians that had joined ISIL were considered to have violated the law.
Members of ISIL have been recruiting jihadists in the country since Indonesia sent humanitarian aid to Syria in 2012.
Dozens have been recruited and have engaged in warfare over the years, even recruiting other jihadists upon returning to Indonesia.
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