By Bill Guerin
JAKARTA - Last weekend's arrest of Abu Dujana, the alleged leader of regional
terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), by Indonesia's anti-terror squad has
deservedly won Jakarta widespread praise. The capture of the Afghan-trained
militant may also help to dampen renewed enthusiasm in the US Congress for yet
another proposal to cut military aid to Jakarta.
One of the most valuable benefits of the closer relationship between President
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and President George W Bush has been the strengthening
of the US-trained and equipped elite police counter-terrorism team, known
locally as Detachment 88, first set up during the administration of president
Megawati Sukarnoputri in 2003, only months after the first Bali bombings.
Equipped with US weaponry and assault vehicles, including Colt M4 assault
rifles, Armalite AR-10 sniper rifles and Remington 870 shotguns, the elite unit
has become one of the top anti-terror units, if not the top, in the
world, during Yudhoyono's watch.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer this week praised Indonesia for
doing "an outstanding job in combating terrorism". Although there
have been scores of arrests and convictions since the first Bali bombings in
2002, with more than 220 suspects jailed for terrorist activities since then,
the battle against terrorism in Indonesia is far from over.
Police said last year that Dujana had replaced Noordin Mohamed Top, the
Malaysian bomb-maker who allegedly supplied suicide bombers and materials used in
terrorist attacks as Indonesia's most wanted fugitive. Top's alleged
accomplice, Malaysian master bomb-maker Azahari bin Husin, was killed in a
November 2005 shootout with Detachment 88 in the terror squad.
If allegations against him are proved to be true, Dujana certainly has a lot of
blood on his hands. He is believed to have played a major role in the 2002 and
2005 Bali bombings and the Australian Embassy blast, as well as having a hand
in the supply of ammunition and explosives to militants involved in sectarian
violence in Poso, Central Sulawesi province. He is also thought to have played
a role in the 2003 blast at the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta.
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty has warned that the effort
needed to eradicate terrorism in Indonesia is "not a sprint, but a
Indonesian National Police Chief General Sutanto has called for tougher laws to
fight terrorism, and says current legislation impedes investigations.
Anti-terrorism chief General Ansyaad Mbai adds that the security forces lack
authority to take preemptive action on those suspected of plotting terrorist
strikes. On the other hand, radical Muslim groups strongly oppose tougher
anti-terror laws, saying they could violate human rights.
The 2003 Anti-terrorism Law allows detention of suspects for seven days for
questioning. If no evidence is provided by the police in that period, they must
Proposed revisions to the existing law, which Mbai has described as the world's
"softest" law against terrorism, would allow detention for a further
six months for questioning and prosecution. Intelligence reports would be
acceptable and admissible prima facie evidence for granting a detention order.
This March, Detachment 88 captured seven suspects thought to be members of
Dujana's network during raids in Central and East Java. Caches of weapons,
explosives and chemicals were seized that could have produced a bomb bigger
than those used in Bali in October 2002. Rights campaigners allege that crackdowns
by Detachment 88 have spawned rights violations and claim most of the arrests
made were illegal.
Yet for Indonesia, with the world's biggest population of Muslims, the
strong-arm tactics of neighbors Malaysia and Singapore, where suspects can be
held indefinitely without charge or trial, is an unlikely option.
Headlining human rights
While the Bush administration has consistently stuck by Indonesia as a key ally
in the "war on terror", improved ties between the two countries have
been helped by President Bush's success in sidelining the poor human-rights
record of Indonesia's military.
The recent deaths of four villagers shot by marines over a land dispute in a
tiny East Java village have angered local rights groups, legislators and
influential Muslim figures. The controversial shootings seem to have reached
out to Washington too, at a time when the US Congress is considering a proposal
by Democrat Nita Lowey, head of the powerful appropriations subcommittee, to
cut military aid. If accepted, her proposal would see conditions attached to
US$2 million of a total of $8 million in military assistance to Indonesia
budgeted for 2008.
The new move, reportedly with little support so far from US senators, is said
to be because of Indonesia's failure to reform the military and to prosecute
senior officers for the violence and mayhem in East Timor in 1999.
In Indonesia, the draft anti-terrorism law, still stuck in Parliament, provides
for the arrest of suspects by the military, which would thus give the armed
forces an involvement in policing and criminal investigations, the very powers
that were so widely abused in the Suharto era.
While the vast majority of Indonesians may have little sympathy for the killers
in their midst, heightened risks to their own rights that stemmed from any
sweeping detention powers given to security authorities, could see the worm
turn. A likely backlash from Muslim groups and political parties in Indonesia
to such a move ahead of the 2009 elections could spell disaster at the polls
Copyright 2007 Asia Times Online Ltd. All