An Indonesian court sentenced a former government official on Thursday to three and a half years in prison after convicting him of terrorism charges linked to his pilgrimage to Syria in 2015, where he allegedly joined the Islamic State with 18 members of his family.
Dwi Djoko Wiwoho, a former director of the Indonesia Coordinating Board’s licensing office on Batam island, was found guilty by the West Jakarta district court of conspiracy and helping finance terrorism.
Judges also ordered Djoko, 51, to pay a fine of 50 million rupiah (about U.S. $3,500).
According to court documents, Djoko went to Syria with his wife, Ratna Nirmala, and their three children, along with his mother-in-law who died in Iraq. His brother-in-law, Iman Santoso, and his brother, Heru Kurnia, also made the trip, leaving on Aug. 1, 2015, and staying in Syria for almost two years.
“After deciding to move to Syria, the defendant sought ways to obtain funding for the trip and sold his house,” Presiding Judge Heri Sumanto said.
“The proceeds from the sale was transfered to Imam Santoso to be used to fund their trip,” the judge said, referring to Djoko’s brother-in-law. “Therefore, the charges of criminal conspiracy and helping finance terrorism were proven.”
The sentence for Djoko was more lenient than the five-year jail term sought by prosecutors. Iman was sentenced in May to four years in prison for his role in the case.
Charges that Djoko aided and concealed information about acts of terrorism were not proven, the court ruled.
“The defendant, on the contrary, wanted to return to Indonesia after finding that the conditions in Syria were not as promised,” the judge said.
“The defendant was remorseful and admitted to his wrongdoing and that travelling to Syria was a mistake,” he said.
Djoko smiled after the verdict was read and said he accepted the sentence.
He kissed his wife and children and talked to them briefly.
Djoko told the court during a hearing in May that he was persuaded by his wife and his second daughter, who have not been charged with any crime, to travel to Syria.
“I was hesitant initially,” he said. “But finally I said: ‘Let’s see. If things don’t go well, we’ll go back.’”
Djoko said he became disillusioned in Syria after promises of a job, food and health care did not materialize.
He said IS fighters often asked to marry his underage daughter and ordered him to join military training, even though he wanted to live as a civilian.
Djoko, his wife and children and their relatives went through the government’s weeks-long de-radicalization programs to help them re-enter Indonesian society after their return in August 2017.
In other news, authorities arrested seven suspected members of the militant group Jamaah Ansharut Khilafah (JAK) in South Sumatra province, police said Thursday.
The arrests occurred on Wednesday in Palembang, capital of South Sumatra province, and in Banyuasin regency, according to Inspector General Zulkarnain Adinegara, the South Sumatra police chief.
“They were arrested because they engaged in acts that lead to terrorism and embraced intolerant views,” Zulkarnain told BenarNews.
“The arrests were a preventive measure,” he said, adding that the raids were part of a security operation ahead of the Asian Games, which will be held in Jakarta and Palembang from Aug. 8 to Sept. 2.
Police seized pipes, bows and arrows, two mobile phones and militant-related reading materials from the suspects, he said.
JAK is an IS affiliate, according to national police spokesman Muhammad Iqbal.
“They were arrested in connection with the Surabaya bombings in May,” he said, referring to suicide bombings on three churches and a police headquarters in the country’s second largest city, which killed 27 people including 13 attackers.
A terrorism analyst at the University of Indonesia said that both Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), which police say was behind the Surabaya attacks, and JAK support Islamic State.
“JAK has its own structure, which is different from JAD,” he said.
He said JAK’s Abu Husna met Aman Abdurahman, JAD’s leader who was sentenced to death in June for his role in a series of attacks since 2016, while they were both jailed at the Pasir Putih prison on Nusakambangan island.
“Abu Husna had differrences with Aman on organizational matters and wordly things, so he set up JAK with its base on Sumatra,” he said, referring to one of the nation’s largest islands west of Java.
Meanwhile, national police spokesman Setyo Wasisto confirmed reports from Malaysia on Thursday that three Indonesians were among seven suspected Islamic State-linked militants arrested in the neigboring country during raids conducted in several states over a five-day period, starting on July 12.
One of the suspects had allegedly threatened to kill the Malaysian king, Sultan Muhammad V, and Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
“It’s correct,” Setyo told BenarNews. “The Indonesian police attaché in Malaysia is currently investigating the information further.”