Indonesia: Ex-Finance Ministry Official, Family Freed Despite Alleged IS Links

Tia Asmara
170127_ID_family_620.jpg Indonesian police question the widow of suspected terrorist Muhamad Ali, Jan. 15, 2016.

An Australian-educated former economist with Indonesia’s finance ministry and his family were released from police custody on Friday after being deported from Turkey for allegedly trying to join Islamic State (IS) in Syria, an official said Friday.

The man, identified as Triyono Utomo, was arrested Wednesday morning at a Bali airport with his wife, daughter and two sons. They were sent to Jakarta on Thursday as part of an investigation, but were eventually released due to a lack of evidence needed to press terrorism-related charges against them, National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Rikwanto told BenarNews.

“They finally were freed and sent to a social center of Bambu Apus to receive guidance training from the social ministry,” Rikwanto said, referring to a government center in Jakarta. "There they are to be trained in Pancasila, Indonesia’s ideology based on five principles, and how to live in society.”

Earlier this week, police released 17 Indonesians who were arrested Saturday after being deported from Turkey over similar allegations. The 17 are attending the same training.

Quit to start school for orphans

On Friday, the Ministry of Finance confirmed that Utomo had been employed there. He had earned a master’s degree from Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, and was a candidate to head a unit in the ministry’s Fiscal Policy Office.

“In February 2016, he resigned as a public servant from the finance ministry, saying he wanted to manage a boarding school for orphans in Bogor,” ministry spokesman Nufransa Wira Sakti said in a press release Friday. “After that he could no longer be contacted.”

The city of Bogor is just south of Jakarta.

Rikwanto said the family was freed because there was not enough evidence against them even though, he acknowledged, there was evidence that IS recruiters had persuaded them to go to Syria.

“We have no choice because they have not done anything related with the terrorism law,” Rikwanto said.

Police, according Rikwanto, cannot charge IS supporters unless criminal laws are broken. He gave examples such as passport forgery and falsification of documents.

Under Indonesia’s counterterrorism laws, it is not an offense for nationals to travel to Syria. But, according to the Associated Press, local authorities have resorted to arresting suspected radicals under the country’s electronic communications laws, if they can prove that they were trying to recruit militants over the internet.

“Now (the law) is under revision. Who knows in the future, if we can have additional clauses to investigate or to charge an IS supporter?” Rikwanto said, referring to the terrorism law.

Investigators determined that the family of five wanted to go to Syria because members were lured by IS recruiters who promised them life under Islamic Caliphate.

“They believe in hijrah, jihad by emigrating, and living under the Islamic law. They want to live in an Islamic community blessed by God. When they are dead, they will go to heaven. That’s what they believe,” Rikwanto said.

Village watchmen

During the past four years, police have teamed up with the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) and local governments to monitor citizens who suddenly move and disappear.

“We told the leaders of neighborhood and villages to monitor suspicious activities of their people so we can follow it up,” Rikwanto said.

Some special regions of concern are hotbeds of IS supporters, including Tasikmalaya in West Java, Makassar in South Sulawesi and Padang in West Sumatra.

Since 2015, as many as 283 Indonesians have been deported from Turkey for allegedly intending to go to Syria, according to figures from the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As of August 2016, according to BNPT, 237 adults and 46 children from Indonesia were in Syria.


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