China to Indonesia: 4 terrorists for 1 fugitive

(From left) Ahmet Mahmud, Altinci Bayyram and Abdul Basit Tuzer at the North Jakarta district court on July 13, 2015.
(From left) Ahmet Mahmud, Altinci Bayyram and Abdul Basit Tuzer at the North Jakarta district court on July 13, 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

It wants Indonesia to hand over Chinese Uighurs in exchange for convict on the run

China is asking Indonesia to extradite four Chinese Uighurs serving six years in jail for terrorism here in return for an Indonesian fugitive recently arrested in Shanghai, a source told The Straits Times.

Samadikun Hartono was convicted of corruption in 2003, and sentenced to four years in jail and ordered to pay 169 billion rupiah (S$17 million) compensation to Indonesia.

But he fled the country before serving his time.

After more than a decade, Jakarta tipped off Beijing that Samadikun, now 68, had gone to Shanghai for Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix, and the authorities arrested him last Thursday.

Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo told reporters earlier that his office would work with the Foreign Ministry to bring Samadikun back to Indonesia, news portal Kompas.com reported on April 16, once China gives the go-ahead for his extradition.

Rights groups have warned against the deportation or extradition of the Muslim Uighurs to China, where they could face prosecution. Last year, Thailand's move to send back more than 100 ethnic Uighurs to China drew harsh criticism.

A Chinese embassy official contacted by The Straits Times yesterday declined to comment.

Law professor Hikmahanto Juwana of the University of Indonesia told The Straits Times that China's request should not be granted by Indonesia because the Uighurs committed their crime here, and thus must serve prison time here.

"Succumbing to China's pressure would make the public think that the government is weak and that it lets China mess with Indonesia's sovereign legal system," he said.

In July last year, an Indonesian court jailed the four ethnic Uighurs from China for six years each for trying to link up with a pro-Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terror group in Central Sulawesi, led by Indonesia's most-wanted terrorist, Santoso.

The four men - Ahmet Mahmud, 21, Altinci Bayyram, 29, Abdul Basit Tuzer, 31, and Ahmat Bozolgan, 28 - used fake passports to enter Indonesia illegally through the Nunukan regency in North Kalimantan by boat from Malaysia. They were caught in Poso, Central Sulawesi, in September 2014 and went on trial in March last year.

Rights groups have warned against the deportation or extradition of the Muslim Uighurs to China, where they could face prosecution. Last year, Thailand's move to send back more than 100 ethnic Uighurs to China drew harsh criticism. The Uighurs are a Muslim minority in China's far western Xinjiang region who are said to have experienced cultural and religious suppression.

Indonesia has been pursuing more than 30 fugitives involved in corruption who have fled overseas, including to China, with little success. High-profile fugitives on the wanted list include Eddy Tansil and Djoko Tjandra, who allegedly stole trillions of rupiah.

In 2009, Indonesia and China signed a bilateral extradition treaty to deny fugitives fleeing their home countries any safeguard.

The extradition agreement applies to criminal suspects who face a jail sentence of at least one year, among other things.

Indonesia has extradition treaties with other countries, including Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Australia, Hong Kong and South Korea.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2016, with the headline 'China to Indonesia: 4 terrorists for 1 fugitive'. Print Edition | Subscribe