Attorney Questions Prosecution of 8 Suspected IS Supporters

Arie Firdaus
151013_ID_ISIS_620.jpg Ridwan Sungkar arrives in West Jakarta District court at the opening of his trial on charges of links to the Islamic State, Oct. 12, 2015.

A lawyer defending eight Indonesians being tried for links to the Islamic State extremist group (IS) challenged the legal basis for the case in comments to BenarNews on Tuesday.

Trials for the eight suspected IS sympathizers started in West Jakarta District Court on Monday, but defense attorney Asludin Hatjani called the charges fabricated and forced.

"They are being called IS sympathizers because they have been to Syria. But they did that before Indonesia declared IS a dangerous group and banned it,” he told BenarNews.

According to Asludin, the government banned IS via a Central Jakarta District Court determination on Oct. 11, 2014. The accused men visited Syria in 2013, he said.

“That means the crime being prosecuted took place before IS was banned. How can that be?” he said.

The eight are being charged under articles 15 and 7 of Law 15/2003 on the Eradication of Terrorism, which carries a minimum penalty of three years in prison and a maximum penalty of death.

The men are Ridwan Sungkar (alias Abu Bilal); Ahmad Junaedi (alias Abu Salman); Abdul Hakim Munabari; Helmi Muhammad Alamudi (alias Abu Royan); Saeful Jambi; Aprium Hendri; Koswara; and Tuah Febriwansyah (alias Muhammad Fachry).

Fachry has also been charged under Law 11/2008 on Information and Electronic Transfers because he is accused of spreading support for IS via the online portal al-Mustaqbal. On several occasions the website has voiced support for al-Muhajirun, the armed movement supporting the “caliphate” declared by IS in parts of Syria and Iraq.

‘Prepared for terror’

Prosecutor Suroyo shrugged off the objection raised by Asludin.

"If he feels it’s not relevant, he can say so in his defense,” Suroyo told BenarNews.

The charges were carefully considered, he said.

Although Indonesia named IS a banned organization in 2014, according to Suroyo, the United Nations had already done so in 2011.

The world body placed sanctions on IS precursor group al-Qaeda in Iraq and several of its leaders in June 2011, after deeming them threats to world peace and security, in Security Council Resolution 1988.

"We used that basis in the charges to ensnare them,” he said.

"Moreover, as long as they were in Syria for military training in ISIS camps, they knew they were being prepared for terror,” Suroyo said, using another acronym for the militant group.

BNPT supports case

Although tried on the same day, the suspects were arrested at different times and locations. Ridwan Sungkar was arrested in March in Tulungagung, East Java.

Also that month, the Indonesian counter-terrorist police unit Detachment 88 arrested Abdul Hakim Munabari, Helmi Alamudi, and Ahmad Junaedi in Malang, East Java.

Fachry was detained the same month in South Tangerang, Banten, in West Java.

Details on the other three men were not immediately available.

"They were tried on the same day because the charges against them are almost the same, although it is not considered a single case,” Kusumoaji, a prosecutor at West Jakarta District Court, told BenarNews.

Separately, Wawan Purwanto, a staff expert at the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), praised prosecutors for citing earlier U.N. measures against IS in their case.

"That was a good step because it gives the indictment a strong foundation,” Wawan said when contacted by BenarNews.

Wawan said he hoped other Indonesians would not follow in the footsteps of the accused men anytime soon. The Indonesian government will not hesitate to punish severely anyone who does, he said.

One possible punishment could be revoking the Indonesian citizenship of those who join IS, he said, to avoid the possibility that they would form or join militant groups after coming home from combat tours in the Middle East.

Indonesian authorities have warned of an emerging threat from IS and its domestic supporters aggressively recruiting Indonesian youths to join its ranks via social media, Muslim boarding schools and other campuses.

A total of 514 Indonesians have joined the group in Syria, out of whom 52 have been killed in action, BNPT chief Saud Usman Nasution told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) last month.

The next trial date for the eight men is Oct. 20, with the defense taking the stand, lawyers said.


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