Authorities have been unable to deradicalize more than two dozen people imprisoned on terrorism-related convictions, although participation in a deradicalization program is compulsory for such inmates, according to the head of Indonesia’s National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT).
“There are still 25 people who cannot change their mindset,” Saud Usman Nasution said during a panel discussion on deradicalization in Jakarta earlier this week.
Additionally, Indonesian officials cannot track nearly 200 former inmates who have been released after serving sentences on terror-related charges. Police had lost contact with one of the perpetrators who died in an attack in Jakarta on Jan. 14, which the Islamic State claimed. Eight people, including four of the alleged assailants, were killed in the attack in downtown Jakarta.
The National Awakening Party (PKB), a moderate Islamic and a conservative political party whose many members are from one of Indonesia’s largest and most influential Islamic organizations, Nadhlatul Ulama, organized the discussion.
Asked to reveal the names of the 25 prisoners, Saud reluctantly answered that he could remember one name, Aman Abdurahman (alias Oman Rachman and Abu Sulaiman).
Aman was convicted for his role in establishing a paramilitary training camp for militants in Jalin, Aceh, in 2010. He also has been linked to the Jan. 14 attacks.
“We cannot change Aman’s way of thinking,” Saud said.
Aman is locked up in Nusakambangan prison following his nine-year sentence by the West Jakarta District Court in 2010, and he is to be freed around August 2019.
After more than five years in prison, Aman refuses to join the BNPT’s deradicalization program, officials with the agency said. At the end of his sentence, he could be released without withdrawing his alleged support for the Islamic State (IS).
“He rejects all programs we arrange for him,” said Wawan Hari Purwanto of BNPT. “He has rejected a Muslim clerk from Egypt [whom] we invited especially for him.”
Aman is housed in an isolation room at Nusakambangan, according to Wawan.
“But we keep trying to deradicalize him by visiting him periodically and communicating with him. This is hard, but we keep trying,” Wawan said.
Many prisoners skip deradicalization training
Government officials conceded that they have released prisoners who maintained radical views.
Among those was Sunakim (alias Afif), who was identified as a man in a baseball cap pointing a handgun at people during the Jakarta attack. A follower of Aman, Sunakim was convicted of terrorism charges in 2011 and released in mid-2015.
“We could not monitor him because he was always on the move,” Saud said.
According to BNPT data, police cannot locate at least 198 of 584 former prisoners convicted of terror-related charges.
“Together with the police, we continue to look for them,” Saud said.
JI member works with BNPT
Nasir Abbas, a former member of al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) who works to help BNPT, urged the agency to continue with the deradicalization program.
Participating in the public discussion, Nasir said it took time to finally accept and be open to non-radical ideology.
“During the time of my deradicalization program, I did not want to chat or look at the investigator’s eyes. Only after constantly being given an explanation, I understood and began to open to the process,” he said.
“Deradicalization is like communication and communication is important. Twelve years in jail without communication is useless.”
Mahasin, the director general of the Islamic Society of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, agreed that the deradicalization process can be time consuming.
“The discussion may come in a relaxed way. There is no need to directly discuss the issue of religion,” he said. “If we start directly with religion, they would immediately not want to listen.”
Education key to countering radicalization
In addition to the deradicalization program, Mahasin highlighted the importance of guidance and education to those who have not been exposed to radical ideology.
“We teach Islam that is moderate, pluralistic, and polite,” Mahasin said.
An'im Falahuddin Mahrus, a parliament member from the National Awakening Party, suggested that teaching tolerance had to start as soon as possible.
“It should be taught from an early age. Family is the key,” he said.