Jakarta may revoke passports of ISIS members

Indonesian military officers and airport security personnel patrol around Jakarta's International airport in Cengkareng on the outskirts of Jakarta on Nov 25, 2015.
Indonesian military officers and airport security personnel patrol around Jakarta's International airport in Cengkareng on the outskirts of Jakarta on Nov 25, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

Indonesia is considering revoking the passports of Indonesians who join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), amid a high terror alert ahead of the year's end.

The proposed move also covers Indonesians repatriated after being caught trying to cross into Syria.

"We now want to take a stern line. Once an Indonesian becomes a foreign fighter, we revoke his passport," Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan told The Straits Times after the police uncovered terror plots and arrested suspects, some of them with links to ISIS.

The move is still at a discussion stage, said Mr Luhut.

"Police, the national counterterrorism agency (BNPT) and our legal experts still have different points of view," he added.

 

Indonesia's citizenship law stipulates that any Indonesian who joins a foreign country's military will automatically lose his citizenship.

Officials, however, are debating whether the law applies in the case of ISIS, which has a military and controls swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, but is not internationally recognised as a country.

The National Intelligence Agency (BIN) is currently monitoring at least 100 Indonesians said to have returned from the Middle East after joining ISIS.

The latest estimates from security agencies in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines show that at least 900 people from the four countries travelled to join ISIS in Syria. The largest group of about 700 were Indonesians.

The worst terrorist attacks in the country were the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people, and were carried out by Indonesian militants who had fought in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Those convicted of the bombings later were members of the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terror network.

JI returnees from the Afghan war also carried out near simultaneous attacks on churches in Jakarta that killed 18 on Dec 24, 2000.

Analysts such as researcher Adhe Bhakti favour revoking passports.

"Those Indonesians who go to Syria know in their minds that they are past the point of no return... Such a move would relieve a future burden," Mr Bhakti of the Jakarta- based Centre for Study of Radicalism and Deradicalisation told The Straits Times.

Meanwhile, a joint operation mounted by Indonesian police and military forces uncovered the headquarters of the East Indonesia Mujahidin in a mountainous part of Central Sulawesi's Poso district, the Jakarta Globe reported, citing national police chief Badrodin Haiti. Its leader Santoso is believed to have been behind several terror attacks since 2012.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2015, with the headline 'Jakarta may revoke passports of ISIS members'. Print Edition | Subscribe