Indonesia to set up new prison for convicted terrorists

YOGYAKARTA - Indonesia plans to set up a new prison specifically for convicted terrorists, where they will be housed in separate cells and grouped according to levels of militancy, from hard-core inmates to those deemed suitable for reformative training.

Mr Luhut Panjaitan, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, said there have been cases of general crime inmates becoming militant-minded and joining terror networks after spending time with those convicted of terrorism in Indonesian prisons.

"We want to set up a dedicated prison for terrorists. Let them influence each other, but we will classify them. The 'half die-hard' ones will be separated from the 'die-hard' ones. When the 'half die-hards' get reformed, they will be separated again," Mr Luhut said in an interview with select media reporters on board a CN-259 transport aircraft en route to Yogyakarta from Jakarta.

Mr Luhut, who oversees police and prison management, likened the fight against terrorism to a war against rebels who want to undermine Indonesia.

In a speech to more than one thousand college students and young bloggers at a national youth gathering in Yogyakarta last Saturday, he said the young generation lives in a digital era where even social media is being used by militant groups to spread violent ideology.

The former general in the army's special forces appealed to his audience to help guard against this and campaign against it on social media. Mr Luhut said: "When I was a soldier, one did not ask where you are from, what religion you follow. What one asked was: Are you ready to defend the nation?"

Over 165,000 people are locked up in Indonesia's prisons. More than 250 of them have been convicted of terrorism-related charges and are housed in 44 prisons scattered across the country.

Mr Luhut said he has started instructing prison heads to separate terrorist inmates from other prisoners.

"Do not mix them at one place, otherwise the general crime inmates could be influenced and brainwashed. The terrorists are the ones who should be brainwashed, not the other way around," Mr Luhut said.

Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population, practises a tolerant brand of Islam. About 85 per cent of the population are Muslims. The remainder include Christians, Buddhists, Confucians and Hindus.

The country's anti-terror campaign since the 2002 Bali bombings has been able to curb the threat of terrorist networks such as Jemaah Islamiah, linked to Al-Qaeda. But it is now grappling with a small radical fringe that includes sympathisers of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Mr Adhe Bhakti, a researcher at the Centre for Radicalism and Deradicalisation Studies, suggested that terrorist inmates be classified into three groups: the cleric types who are successful at spreading violent ideology; the militants who engage directly in terrorist acts; and the supporters who help to fund or harbour terrorists.

"The supporter types could be placed in a general prison that is in their hometown so they are close to their family. The ideology and militant types can be in the dedicated terrorist prison, and a new regulation banning the ideology-type inmates from receiving guests other than whole-blooded relatives must be introduced," Mr Adhe told The Straits Times.

Under the existing law, prison officials cannot ban terrorist inmates from receiving guests whom the inmates have agreed to meet.

About 800 Indonesians have travelled to fight for ISIS, of whom more than 60 have died, according to Mr Luhut.

He said the government will carry out a three-pronged approach to prevent terrorism: administrative, ideology and law enforcement. Asking the Turkish embassy to apply tighter requirements for issuing visas to Indonesians would be one of the administrative efforts, said Mr Luhut.

Another counter-terrorism government initiative revealed by Mr Luhut is a plan to send young judges for one-month anti-terrorism training at the University of California at Berkeley. Four batches of young judges, with each batch comprising 20 to 30 judges, will be sent a year.

Mr Adhe said: "Training is good. The best training modules would be those that could help judges build self-confidence in dealing with terrorist defendants. Some judges are actually afraid, as terrorist trials - according to Indonesian law - are open to the public and supporters of the defendants are free to come and watch the trial."

This article was first published on Nov 3, 2015.
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