Indonesia Media Cautioned Over Interviews with Terror Suspects

Arie Firdaus and Tia Asmara
161216_ID_tv0ne_1000.jpg A man arrested for allegedly planning a suicide bombing appears in a television interview being viewed on YouTube, Dec. 16, 2016.
Arie Firdaus/BenarNews

A top official of the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) on Friday urged media to avoid providing a platform for violent ideology when broadcasting interviews with terrorism suspects.

The comments followed the arrest of a woman police said was on the brink of becoming Indonesia’s first female suicide bomber, and the equally unprecedented broadcast three days later of lengthy interviews with the suspect and her husband.

The two are among nine suspects arrested this week for a suicide attack planned for Dec. 11 outside the presidential palace in Jakarta, according to police.

“You must be careful. Especially when it comes to arguing theology,” Sujarwanto Rahmat Arifin, vice chairman of the KPI, told BenarNews.

The woman, Dian Yulia Novi, 27, alluded to a Hadith – one of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad – and then appeared to engage in a theological debate with her interviewer when asked why she thought suicide bombing was an acceptable form of jihad.

“Arguing about the interpretation of that verse was very risky,” Sujarwanto said.

Asludin Hatjani, an attorney representing the two suspects, disagreed that the interviews could spread terrorist ideology.

On the contrary, he said, they could convince people that the arrests were not a ploy to distract attention from the ongoing blasphemy trial of Jakarta Gov. Basuku Tjahaja Purnama, a view that has circulated widely on social media in Indonesia.

Therefore, he did not prevent his clients from giving the interviews, Asludin said.

“They were willing. That’s what counts,” he said.

TVOne, the network that ran the interviews, declined to comment for this story when contacted by BenarNews.

Marriage for disaster

Religious leaders, meanwhile, repudiated comments by Dian’s husband, Nur Solihin, that he had married her to facilitate her goal of becoming a suicide bomber.

Asked if such a marriage was religiously justified, Solihin replied, “God willing, it’s justified. The purpose was to seek Allah’s pleasure.”

“A marriage meant to create disaster for others is outside the definition of marriage stipulated by religion,” Anwar Abbas, secretary general of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), told BenarNews on Friday.

Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin said that marriage is a sacred matter between a couple and God.

“If it becomes a vehicle to contradict the teachings of religion, that should not be,” he was quoted as saying by the website

A surge in female suspects

Female suicide bombers have been seen in Middle Eastern countries but never in Indonesia, noted Ridlwan Habib, a terrorism expert from University of Indonesia.

He called it a new strategy from Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian IS figure in Syria who police allege was behind the plot and, according to Nur Solihin, specifically instructed that the suicide bomber should be female.

“This is a new method, a smart strategy, by Bahrun Naim, who is looking for the weakness of the security forces,” he told BenarNews.

Police say that Bahrun Naim also masterminded the first IS-claimed attack in Indonesia, in January 2016. The gun and bomb attack in central Jakarta left eight dead, including four attackers.

People think of suicide bombers as men with backpacks, whereas police are likely to be less suspicious of a woman, Ridlwan said.

To date, Indonesian women have had a behind-the-scenes role in terrorism networks, preparing logistics, taking care of children or supporting their husbands, he said.

“There are some who became geurillas in the forest, taking up arms like the wife of Santoso in Poso, but no one has come out in front like this,” he said.

Authorities arrested four female of the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) between July and October, including one who was pregnant. The network has been all but destroyed by security forces, who killed its leader, Santoso, in July.

A total of four women were arrested this week for alleged links to the suicide plot, including Dian, who was taken into custody in Bekasi, West Java on Dec. 10.

On Monday, police arrested Arinda Putri Maharani, 25, the first wife of Nur Solihin, in Solo, Central Java, alleging that she had facilitated financing of the plot and had failed to disclose it to authorities.

Early Thursday, police arrested Tutin, alias Ummu Abza, who allegedly introduced Dian and Nur Solihin. Arrested in Tasikmalaya, West Java, Tutin is thought to have radicalized Dian and encouraged her to become a suicide bomber, the Jakarta Post reported.

Police picked up Ika Puspitasari alias Salsabika Taslimah in Purworejo, Central Java, on Thursday evening but have not yet disclosed her alleged role.


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