Indonesian spy chief calls for authority to summon terrorist suspects

Indonesian spy chief calls for authority to summon terrorist suspects
Indonesia's chief security affairs minister Luhut Pandjaitan.
PHOTO: Reuters

Diverging from the government's planned amendments of the 2003 Terrorism Law, the country's spy agency demanded on Monday that intelligence officers be bestowed with the power to summon and question terrorist suspects.

National Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Sutiyoso said that the agency wanted to summon suspects to gain more information.

"We don't want to arrest suspected terrorists like the police do. We just want to summon the suspects to explore information," he said after a closed hearing with House of Representatives Commission I overseeing defence and foreign affairs.

The House has begun deliberating the antiterrorism bill, discussing 12 provisions that the government proposed in the draft revision.

Among the proposed changes is widening the categories of terrorist offences to include sales of chemical, biological, radiological, microorganism, nuclear and radioactive weapons.

The bill also allows the police to detain a suspect for up to 180 days for investigation.

The government has also proposed prohibiting relations with terrorist groups abroad, as there is currently no law that can be used to incriminate Indonesians who go overseas to join such groups. The new provisions would also prohibit Indonesians from undergoing military training in other countries.

Another proposed revision covers a ban on adopting radical Islamic values, recruiting people for terrorism purposes, sending proxies for terrorist attacks, funding terrorist movements, giving assistance to terrorist groups and committing violence in the name of terrorism.

The draft revision does not include giving intelligence bodies the power to summon or arrest suspects.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan previously said that the government was considering revising the Intelligence Law to give such authority to the spy agency.

"It is very much worth considering. We will see the related regulations. [A suspect] can be arrested for 10 days and then released. Why not?" he said.

The idea of extending the authority of the spy agency, however, has been met with strong public resistance, with human rights activists highlighting the potential for abuse of the power.

Commission I deputy head TB Hasanuddin of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), who also attended Monday's hearing, said there was still no agreement on giving additional authority to the agency.

Civil society groups called on the government to be transparent in the deliberation of the Terrorism Law.

Maarif Institute researcher Wahyudi Akmaliah said that long periods of detention by law enforcers could lead to the abuse of power as it would allow them to arrest and detain anyone assumed to be a threat to national security.

He said the government should deliberate carefully to avoid reverting to the New Order regime when citizens were subject to a draconian antisubversion law passed in 1963 under the dictatorship of then president Soeharto. The law was often abused to silence political activists and government critics.

"The state's intervention in individuals and public freedom will be too strong, so that if we try to criticise the government, we can be considered terrorists," Wahyudi said.

House Legislation Body (Baleg) member Arsul Sani of the United Development Party (PPP) said the House would criticise the detention period.

"It's too long. Two weeks still makes sense. Furthermore, preliminary evidence can be obtained using intelligence reports, so it should to be easy for them to find one more piece of evidence," Arsul said.

The member of House Commission III overseeing human rights, security and legal affairs also revealed that the government planned to implement a deradicalization programme, in which it would place terrorist suspects, defendants, former terrorists and their families in rehabilitation for six months.

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