Indonesian Women to Spend 15 Years in Iraqi Prison for Joining Islamic State

Ahmad Syamsudin and Tia Asmara
190628-ID-IQ-women-620.jpg An Indonesian family who escaped from the Islamic State in Raqqa, Syria, gather inside their tent at a Syrian refugee camp, June 24, 2017.

Two Indonesian women will not be deported home after authorities in Iraq convicted and sentenced them to 15 years in prison under its anti-terror laws for joining the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, Indonesia’s foreign ministry confirmed Friday.

Foreign ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah identified the women as Aidha and Amalia, and said they were sentenced this month and in April. Many Indonesians use only one name.

“If they are found guilty under Iraqi law, they have to serve their sentences there,” Faizasyah told BenarNews.

The spokesman said it was not clear how the women ended up in Iraq or whether there were other Indonesians linked to IS being held in the Middle Eastern country.

“We have no further information as details are still being verified by the immigration department,” Faizasyah said.

The Indonesian government can do little to help citizens linked to IS who face legal troubles in Iraq and Syria because the militant organization is banned in Indonesia, according to Stanislaus Riyanta, a security analyst at the University of Indonesia.

“Certainly, Iraqi and Syrian authorities have the jurisdiction to carry out legal proceedings against anyone involved in IS or other legal violations in their countries,” Stanislaus told BenarNews.

“It is better for Indonesia if citizens who join IS are prosecuted in Iraq or Syria, where they committed their crimes, because the Iraqi and Syrian authorities certainly have stronger evidence,” he said.

Information about the sentencings surfaced after the Associated Press reported earlier this week about an unnamed Indonesian woman who was sentenced this month in Iraq, and was known to be married to an IS fighter who was killed in a U.S.-led coalition airstrike.

Iraq authorities have detained or imprisoned about 19,000 people accused of being members of IS or carrying out acts of terrorism and as many as 3,000 have been sentenced to death, including dozens of French citizens, AP reported. None of the French citizens have been executed.

Repatriation issues

Faizasyah said questions regarding the possible repatriation of Indonesians involved in the conflict in Syria and Iraq should be addressed to the National Counter-Terrorism Agency (BNPT) and the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security affairs.

Earlier this year, Indonesia’s foreign ministry said it was working to determine the nationalities of about 50 people believed to members of Indonesian families who joined IS and were sheltering at the al-Hol camp for displaced people in northeastern Syria, after IS’s last bastion fell.

“First, it needs to be verified whether they are Indonesians,” Faizasyah said.

The verification could take months and would involve the National Police and National Counter-Terrorism Agency (BNPT), which would have to confirm and cross-check information from relatives and other sources with knowledge of the displaced people, the foreign ministry said.

In 2017, BNPT reported that at least 1,321 Indonesians had joined IS or tried to enlist. Of that number, 84 were killed, 482 were deported while trying to enter Syria, and 62 had returned from Syria. Another 63 were stopped at Indonesian airports while trying to travel to the Middle East.

Last November, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu told BenarNews that about 700 Indonesian citizens had joined IS in Syria and Iraq.

The government should provide legal assistance to citizens facing legal problems overseas, Jakarta-based security analyst Rakyan Adibrata said.

“Turkey prefers deportation. Iraq prefers to conduct judicial processes there. Diplomatic efforts are needed,” he said.

For those repatriated to Indonesia, the government must ensure that they do not pose a security threat at home, Rakyan said.

“Efforts should be made to rehabilitate and deradicalize them to make sure that those who return don’t endanger others,” he said.


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