The Indonesian widow of a militant leader of Islamic State’s 2017 siege of Marawi city in the southern Philippines has been released from prison there, an Indonesian official said Friday.
Minhati Madrais, 39, was released in late June when a court in nearby Iligan City dismissed charges against her of possessing explosive materials, said Joedha Nugraha, director of Protection of Citizens and Legal Entities Overseas at the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“At present the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, relevant ministries and institutions under the Coordinating Ministry for Politics and Security are discussing what action to take related to her release,” he told a news conference in Jakarta.
The Indonesian embassy in Manila and consulate-general in southern Davao City were communicating with Philippine authorities about Minhati’s release, Joedha said. BenarNews reporters in the Philippines, however, could not immediately confirm this information with local officials.
Minhati is the widow of the late Omarkhayam Maute, a Filipino who co-led the pro-IS Maute group. It helped Isnilon Hapilon, an Abu Sayyaf Group militant who commanded the Philippine branch of Islamic State, lead hundreds of militants, including foreign fighters, in taking over Marawi city for five months.
Both Maute and Hapilon were killed in October 2017 toward the end of the five-month battle with government forces that left the once scenic lakeshore city in ruins. Abdullah Maute, who with Omarkhayam led the Maute group, was killed earlier during the fighting.
Minhati was arrested on Nov. 5, 2017, at her home in Iligan City, where police alleged that they found bomb-making materials and an expired Indonesian passport.
Joedha said Minhati’s trial began on March 20, 2018.
“On June 26, 2020, the judge ruled to acquit Minhati Madrais due to insufficient evidence,” he said.
Minhati, a daughter of an Islamic cleric in Bekasi, a Jakarta suburb, met Maute when they were studying in Egypt, according to reports. The couple have six children, who were placed in the custody of Philippine authorities after her arrest.
In Jakarta, officials at the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) declined to comment on Minhati’s possible homecoming.
“Any repatriation will be arranged by the Indonesian embassy in Manila,” Commissioner Awi Setiono, spokesman for the national police, told BenarNews.
Although women were involved in the Marawi siege, Manhati stayed away during the fighting three years ago, according to Darojatul Aliah, executive director of the Society Against Radicalism and Violent Extremism, an Indonesian NGO that works with ex-radicals and tries to help rehabilitate members of extremist groups.
“Many [women] treated wounded combatants or just provided food, but not Minhati, who was evacuated by Omar Maute out of Marawi, and temporarily stayed in the city of Iligan,” she said.
Aliah said Minhati was staying in Iligan, about 30 km (18.6 miles) north of Marawi.
Meanwhile, the director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), a Jakarta think-tank, said she expected Minhati to come back to Indonesia.
“Minhati Madrais will go home because all her children except those who are toddlers are already in Indonesia. They were sent here first,” Sidney Jones told BenarNews, adding that Minhati probably would stay at an Islamic boarding school run by her family.
Jones said the widow did not have ties to any pro-IS group in Indonesia.
“She is not a threat whatsoever because even though her husband was a prominent figure in the battle of Marawi, she herself was in the city of Iligan during the Marawi uprising,” Jones said.