Indonesian officials said Thursday they had turned down a request from the Chinese government to exchange a fugitive Indonesian banker captured in China for four Uyghur prisoners serving terrorism-related sentences in Indonesia.
Indonesian Attorney General Agung M. Prasetyo told parliament that the government had refused the Chinese request for a four-for-one swap of prisoners, but that the Chinese had agreed to deport the Indonesian fugitive, Samadikun Hartono.
“They finally understood, and tonight we will receive and process Samadikun,” Prasetyo said.
Meanwhile, an anonymous Indonesian official told BenarNews that, in exchange for Samadikun, the Indonesians had agreed to give Chinese officials unprecedented access to question the Uyghurs imprisoned in Indonesia.
Elsewhere, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, briefed reporters in Jakarta about why Indonesia had declined to exchange the four Uyghurs for Samadikun, a former banker.
“We told them [the Chinese government], it’s not that easy to do that, because they were tried on different charges linked to different cases,” Luhut said at his office in Jakarta.
“Any transfer of Uyghur prisoners should be discussed separately,” he added.
He pointed out that Samadikun and the four Uyghurs had committed their crimes in Indonesia, not on Chinese soil.
Beijing had asked Jakarta to trade the four Uyghurs, who were convicted last year on charges of attempting to join the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT), a militant group based in Central Sulawesi province and led by Santoso, Indonesia’s most wanted militant, for Samadikun.
‘The same as killing them’
In July, a West Jakarta court sentenced each of the Uyghurs – Ahmed Bozoglan, Ahmet Mahmud, Abdul Basit and Altinci Bayram – to six years in prison. They were arrested in Central Sulawesi in September 2014, after using fake Turkish passports and visas to enter the country.
Uyghurs are a Muslim minority who mostly live in Xinjiang, a province in northwestern China, but they are also spread across Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkey. Rights groups have accused China of persecuting Uyghurs.
During the trial of the four Uyghurs, their defense lawyers argued that they were Turkish citizens who should not be deported to China – a move that Indonesian authorities were considering then.
An Indonesian official who requested anonymity said Indonesia would face international pressure if the country had agreed to deport the Uyghur prisoners to China.
“Giving Uyghurs back to China is the same as killing them. Most probably, the Chinese government will execute them instantly,” the official told BenarNews.
Because China agreed to return Samadikun, the government would grant the Chinese government access to the Uyghur convicts in Indonesia, the official said, noting that such access had never been granted before.
On the run for 13 years
Samadikun fled his country 13 years ago after being charged with corruption, but was caught by the Chinese authorities on April 14.
The charges against him were tied to the Bank Indonesia liquidity support (BLBI) case. In 2002, Indonesian president Megawati Sukarnoputri issued a decree freeing recipients from paying full shares of their portion of debts totaling 702 trillion rupiah (U.S. $53 billion).
Samadikun was a former CEO of Bank Modern, whose debt totaled 169.4 billion rupiah (U.S. $12.8 million). He escaped in 2003 after being convicted and sentenced to four years in prison.
Samadikun’s arrest in China resulted from cooperation between Chinese authorities and the Indonesia’s national intelligence agency, Indonesian officials said.