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Jakarta Post

Has Indonesia gone soft on terrorism?

  • Adam James Fenton and Hery Firmansyah

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, July 10, 2015   /  06:32 am

On Monday June 29, Afif Abdul Majid, a longtime colleague and supporter of Abu Bakar Ba'€™asyir, was convicted by the Central Jakarta District Court of providing funds for a terrorist training camp in Aceh in 2010.

For this crime, the court sentenced him to four years'€™ imprisonment. After subtracting time already served in custody, and remissions, this terrorist ideologue who publicly declared his support for the Islamic State (IS) movement, will likely be free in a couple of years.

The decision, which has received surprisingly little media attention, is indicative of some serious flaws in Indonesia'€™s approach to counter-terrorism. Ustad Afif was convicted by the court of donating funds for a paramilitary training camp in Jalin Jantho, Aceh, in circumstances in which '€œit was known, or ought to have been known'€ that they would be used for terrorism.

The chief judge, from a panel of three, in handing down the court'€™s verdict and sentence, appeared at pains to point out two things:

First, that the offense included circumstances where the defendant ought to have known that the money would be used for terrorism '€” even if he didn'€™t, in fact, know.

And second, that if the defendant didn'€™t agree with the verdict, it was not final and could be appealed. '€œI reject this decision and I didn'€™t know the money would be used for terrorism'€, Afif cried out at the conclusion of proceedings to a court room packed with his militant, shouting supporters.

Much was made of this by the prisoner'€™s defense counsel, Achmad Midan, outside the courtroom. To argue that Afif was unaware that the money would be used for the terrorist training camp is absurd.

Since the formation of Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), Ba'€™asyir'€™s phoenix that rose from the ashes of Jamaah Islamiyah, Afif has been there by his side. A 2010 report of the private International Crisis Group noted that at JAT'€™s inauguration event in Bekasi in September 2008, '€œBa'€™asyir was the major attraction, but Afif Abdul Majid was the man in charge'€.

To argue that Afif was not aware and complicit in the planning of the terrorist training camp for which Ba'€™asyir is serving 15 years imprisonment, is an untenable, apologist stance. The judge made no attempt to reprimand the prisoner for his actions and missed the opportunity to point out, to a room full of his supporters, the dangers of the ideology he espouses or the influence he wields over his followers.

The fact that Afif was convicted at all is something of a triumph. We could ask why it took police and prosecutors five years to bring the charges for financing the camp in Aceh against him. But in a way it is a good thing that they did. Because that charge was bundled together with other charges relating to his involvement with, and support for, the IS movement.

When an IS recruitment video appeared on YouTube in August 2014 urging Indonesians to join the fight in Syria, the previous administration moved quickly to '€œban'€ the organization. However, in the absence of any supporting laws or regulations, the police were left facing a legal vacuum.

On several occasions they arrested IS supporters only to later release them for lack of a law to charge them under. Indonesia'€™s best legal minds were asked for a solution. Some suggested revoking the Indonesian citizenship of anyone who declared allegiance to IS.

Another suggestion was to link the actions of IS supporters here to the brutal, terrorist acts of IS in Syria and Iraq, and charge them under Indonesia'€™s anti-terrorism law, which has extra-territorial effect. Yet another, more creative, idea was to dust off a colonial-era law which criminalizes acts of rebellion, or makar, against friendly states.

Afif'€™s was the first case to come before the Indonesian courts which involved charges linked to IS and was therefore something of a test case for how Indonesia'€™s laws could cope with the IS situation.

They did not pass the test.

In addition to funding the Aceh camp in 2010, Afif also faced charges relating to late 2013/early 2014, when he travelled to Syria, joined IS, undertook military training, pledged allegiance to the self-proclaimed caliph, and then returned to Indonesia and started speaking publicly about how great IS is and how people should go there and support it. All these facts are freely admitted by the defendant himself.

Accordingly, prosecutors charged him with '€œconspiracy, attempt or aiding'€ the commission of terrorism, and with the '€œrebellion against a friendly state'€ offence '€” in this case, the friendly state being Syria. Despite the defendant'€™s admissions, and the valiant attempts of the police and prosecutors, Afif avoided all the IS-related charges.

The court found simply that there was insufficient evidence of involvement in violent acts to convict the defendant, and gave the matter no further discussion or attention.

The real failure here lies with the state of the law. Despite repeated calls from various commentators and stakeholders, the laws have not been revised or amended to deal with the rise of the IS phenomenon. If police had a clear offence with which to charge anyone who purports to be a member, or supporter of IS, they would have a much better chance of obtaining convictions.

As it is, they have very little chance, and influential and dangerous supporters of IS are able to evade prosecution. In that sense we were lucky that the prosecutors had an ace up their sleeve in the '€œfinancing Aceh'€ charge. If not for that, Afif would have walked from the court room a free man.

Despite repeated calls, the laws have not been revised or amended to deal with the rise of the IS phenomenon.

Adam James Fenton is a law doctoral candidate at Charles Darwin University. Hery Firmansyah is a lecturer at the Faculty of Law, Tarumanagara University in Jakarta.

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