Indonesian Police to Review Arrest Procedures for Suspected Militants

Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata and Tia Asmara
2016.04.21
Jakarta
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160421-ID-seminar-1000 Indonesian National Counterterrorism Agency Chief Tito Karnavian (second from right), participates in a seminar on radicalization and terrorism in Jakarta, April 21, 2016.
Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata/BenarNews

Updated at 11:18 a.m. ET on 2016-04-22

Amid an outcry over the in-custody death of a Javanese man, Indonesia’s national police chief said Thursday his agency would reevaluate procedures used by its counter-terrorist wing to arrest suspects.

Gen. Badrodin Haiti said he had also ordered officers from the Indonesian equivalent of police internal affairs to monitor how Densus 88 went about arresting suspected militants so that another “Siyono” incident wouldn’t happen again.

Siyono, 34, died in police custody after being arrested by Densus 88 in Central Java province on March 8. Police earlier said he died during an altercation with an officer who was guarding him, but relatives and human rights advocates alleged that Siyono’s body bore signs of torture.

“We’ve set a policy that we will monitor every arrest of suspected terrorists and we will deploy our professional security [Propam] team,” Badrodin told reporters in Jakarta on Thursday, referring to a team of officers dedicated to ensuring that police procedures are followed by the book.

Badrodin’s announcement came the same day that a committee of the Indonesian House of Representatives began discussing proposed tougher changes to the country’s anti-terrorism law, which has raised concerns among civil liberty advocacy groups over potential abuses of human rights.

His announcement followed calls by legislators and civil society leaders urging President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to order an independent review of Densus 88.

‘Our members admitted kicking him’

During a meeting with Indonesian lawmakers on Wednesday, Badrodin detailed the chronology of events leading to Siyono’s death.

He said Siyono died while Densus 88 was transporting him near a bus terminal in Wonogori, a city in Central Java, as officers searched for weapons in a suspected hiding place.

Police released Siyono from handcuffs so he could cooperate and show them the storage bunker. Instead, he attacked the officer and died from injuries sustained during the fight, Badrodin told lawmakers.

After an autopsy confirmed there was bruising to Siyono’s corpse, police on April 5 announced that Siyono was a leader of a new offshoot of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), an extremist group and Southeast Asian affiliate of al-Qaeda behind the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.

Indonesian Human Rights Commissioner Siane Indriani, however, disputed the police’s official claim that Siyono had resisted arrest and fought with the officer.

The autopsy, which was sought by Siyono’s family, concluded that he was beaten while lying down. His body suffered damage, most severely in the chest.

The police chief later acknowledged that Densus 88 members had kicked Siyono in the chest. An internal investigation revealed that two members of Densus 88 were involved in the fight with Siyono.

“Our members admitted kicking him on the chest with their knees,” Badrodin said.

Propam not enough

Commenting on Thursday’s announcement by Badrodin, terrorism expert Harits Abu Ulya questioned whether Propam could evaluate Densus 88’s performance in the field objectively.

“Besides Propam being present in each operation, the [officers] should have a camera ready” in order to record evidence that would help them evaluate Densus 88, said Harits who is with the Community of Ideological Islamic Analysts (CIIA).

Densus 88 must be accountable and transparent, he said.

Contending views

Regarding the proposed changes to the Anti-Terrorism Act, Com. Gen. Tito Karnavian, who heads the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), said the law needed to be revised to prevent further terrorist attacks.

On Jan. 14, eight people, including four suspected militants, were killed in a terror attack in downtown Jakarta claimed by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.

One proposed amendment to the law would make it a crime for Indonesian citizen to participate in terrorist training abroad or join militant groups.

“If they finally conduct an act of terror, then we all will have regrets,” Tito told journalists following a seminar on terrorism and radicalization in Jakarta on Thursday.

Meanwhile, a representative of the Muslim Lawyers Team, Akhmad Kholid questioned the urgency of revising the law.

“Is that important [enough] to be revised? We fear it would become more repressive,” Akhmad told BenarNews.

As an example, he cited a proposed clause that would extend detentions of suspects without a trial from six to 10 months.

An earlier version misspelled the name of the human rights commissioner and didn't give the proper rank for Tito Karnavian.

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