Cellphones, violent ideology books smuggled to jailed Indonesian terrorist

Aman Abdurrahman, seen here in handcuffs in a file photo, is scheduled to be released on Dec 25, 2018. However, if he is found to have played a role in the terror attack in Jakarta on Jan 14 that left eight dead, he could wind up serving more prison
Aman Abdurrahman, seen here in handcuffs in a file photo, is scheduled to be released on Dec 25, 2018. However, if he is found to have played a role in the terror attack in Jakarta on Jan 14 that left eight dead, he could wind up serving more prison time.PHOTO: REUTERS

Indonesian prison officers also found violent ideology books, among other items, in his cell

Indonesian terrorist Aman Abdurrahman has had up to six mobile phones smuggled to him by visitors during the six years he has been in prison.

Guards found the devices in Aman's cell during two of their regular and impromptu checks on prisoners at the Kembang Kuning penitentiary on the maximum-security Nusakambangan prison island in Central Java province.

In an impromptu check on Oct 12, 2014, prison officers found six mobile phones, two headsets and a world map in Aman's cell, according to a top official who spoke to The Straits Times.

Another check of his cell in February last year turned up a 50cm-long aluminium pipe 5cm in diameter, five violent ideology books, a list of phone numbers, three phone SIM cards, a 3m electrical cable and a switching device.

The prison officers also discovered a 50cm hole allegedly dug by Aman and his cellmates, the official said.

Indonesia tightened checks on people who visit terrorists in late 2014. Guests seeing Aman were found to have good memorisation skills and were tasked to convey messages from Aman - who is scheduled to be released on Dec 25, 2018 - to his followers outside prison .

Visiting days at the Kembang Kuning penitentiary are every Tuesday and Thursday and apply to both general criminals as well as terrorists.

Aman shares a 5m-by-15m cell with four others, including Musola alias Muhamad Ibrahim Musa, a bombmaker for the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terror group. Another cellmate is Iwan Darmawan Muntho alias Rois, who helped JI operative Noordin Top bomb the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in 2004.

Police are now investigating whether Aman played a role in the terror attack in Jakarta on Jan 14 that left eight dead, including the four attackers. All four visited Aman at least three times before the attack.

If so, he could wind up serving more prison time. Aman is now behind bars for helping to fund a terrorist paramilitary training camp in Aceh province, which police raided in early 2010.

The government believes Aman, 44, is the most senior Indonesia-based militant affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). In August 2014, Aman hung an ISIS flag on his cell wall. He was told to take it down but allowed to give the flag to one of his visitors, Syaiful Bahri, who came with 10 others. Police also seized five pieces of headwear, four shirts, one pin, and four balaclavas with ISIS markings from him and his cellmates and gave them to Syaiful.

The government is now renovating a separate facility to house terror ideologues like Aman, as well as hardcore inmates such as drug ring leaders, in single cells. Their visitors will soon be limited to close family members only.

Mr Taufik Andrie, who works with a deradicalisation non-governmental organisation in Jakarta, said that, by law, every inmate in Indonesia has the right to receive visitors.

Prison management cannot ban visitors but can regulate the number allowed, visiting times and what they can bring in.

Visitors have been known to smuggle items to ordinary prisoners who later pass them to terrorist inmates, Mr Taufik added.

"Prison guards could also be involved in the smuggling," he told The Straits Times. "They may either be bribed, threatened or, not impossibly, recruited."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2016, with the headline 'Cellphones smuggled to jailed terrorist'. Print Edition | Subscribe