Indonesia’s government used an executive decree Wednesday to officially ban Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), the domestic chapter of a hardline international group that is pressing for an Islamic caliphate in the world’s largest majority-Muslim country.
The government had the authority to disband non-governmental organizations (NGOs) considered as a threat to Indonesia and its pluralist state ideology known as Pancasila, a top official with the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights told a news conference in Jakarta.
“The government believes that the revocation of the decree for the legal entity of the HTI was not done arbitrarily, but after a synergy between governmental agencies in the fields of politics, law and security,” said Freddy Harris, the ministry’s director general for legal administration.
Last week, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo approved the decree, or government regulation signed in lieu of the law, referred to as a Perppu in Indonesia. Officials said it was aimed at making it easier for the government to disband civil society groups seen as fomenting social unrest and threatening Indonesia’s unity by not having to take such organizations to court under a 2013 law that regulates NGOs.
As written, the decree did not identify Hizbut by name, but government officials had warned they were moving to disband it.
The president said the decision was legal and made after careful consideration.
“The government has studied for a long time and considered the inputs from ulemas and the community,” Jokowi said.
While HTI claims Pancasila, a philosophy emphasizing national unity and pluralism, as its own ideology, in reality its activities violate this, Freddy alleged.
“They broke their own articles of association,” he said.
“Anyone having any objections to the decision may take legal action in accordance with the laws and regulation,” he added.
No activities allowed
The local branch of HTI, which is believed to have about 2 million members, campaigned for a caliphate and implementation of Sharia law in the country.
The Council of Indonesian Ulema (MUI), a group of Muslim scholars, supported the ban on HTI.
“The dissolution of HTI is indeed a process that has been taken. The government has the right to say that HTI is not in accordance with Pancasila,” MUI chairman Ma’ruf Amin said, according to Kompas.com.
Police said they would continue to monitor members of the organization. Police spokesman Setyo Wasisto said officers would not issue any permits for HTI activities.
“If they continue to carry out activities, we will stop them and process them according to applicable law,” he told BenarNews. Those who violate the ruling could face prison sentences of six months to life.
HTI spokesman Ismail Yusanto said the decision proved that the government is despotic.
“We never knew what mistake we had made because there had never been a warning letter (to us) as regulated in the Perppu,” he told BenarNews.
Ismail accused the government of breaking its own rules.
“HTI will not remain silent. HTI will take legal action,” he said.
The organization’s lawyer, Yusril Ihza Mahendra, who served as minister of justice and Human Rights from 2001 to 2004, said his side would appeal to the State Administrative Court.
“Perppu opens opportunities for the government to become a dictator. The government unilaterally dissolves mass organizations without their right to defend themselves and without a fair and proper law enforcement process,” he said in a written statement.