Jakarta to limit visitation rights of terror inmates

Indonesia's move to tighten visitation rights of terror inmates follows revelations that two militants involved in the Jakarta attacks visited extremist ideologue Aman Abdurrahman (left) in prison before carrying out the attacks.
Indonesia's move to tighten visitation rights of terror inmates follows revelations that two militants involved in the Jakarta attacks visited extremist ideologue Aman Abdurrahman (above) in prison before carrying out the attacks.PHOTO: REUTERS

Restrictions aimed at stopping them from spreading violent ideology from behind bars

Indonesia will tighten visitation rights of terror inmates in a bid to silence those who spread violent ideology from behind prison walls.

This follows revelations that militants behind the Jan 14 attacks in Jakarta were influenced and possibly directed by extremist ideologue Aman Abdurrahman, who is serving a nine-year jail sentence for funding a terrorist training camp in Aceh.

Two government sources told The Straits Times that the move to restrict visits will be put in place this week, starting with inmates marked "Teroris ideolog" or "ideological terrorists". These inmates can be visited only by their parents, siblings and children. If they are married, their spouses and parents-in-law can visit as well.

 
 
 
 

The Straits Times understands that besides Aman, 44, book bomber Pepi Fernando, 36, and firebrand cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, 77, are also on the list of inmates with restricted visitation rights.

Terror analysts such as Mr Ridwan Habib from the University of Indonesia welcome the government's latest move.

They say it can be a game changer, especially for the country's prison system, often regarded as one of its weak links in its fight against terror.

Mr Ridwan says he knows of guests visiting Aman who have left the prison complex with notes written by him as well as recordings of his sermons.

The material would later be distributed outside the prison.

Tighter body searches on anyone visiting terror inmates and the visitation restrictions can reduce the risk of violent ideology being spread beyond prisons.

"Such restrictions wouldn't spark protests from the human rights advocates as long as inmates continue to have access to food and drink, and be allowed to pray and meet their wives and family members," said Mr Ridwan.

The Jan 14 attacks on a police post in the heart of Jakarta and a nearby Starbucks cafe killed eight people, including four militants.

Two attackers gunned down by police, Sunakim alias Afif and Muhammad Ali, were believed to have visited Aman in prison before they mounted the siege in Jakarta, said the police.

While he never fought in any war or launched a successful terror attack, Aman played an instrumental role in setting up a paramilitary training camp in Aceh, where 71 militants from various groups trained together until it was raided by police in 2010.

Aman has mastered the Arabic language and Quranic verses, and with his intellect is able to influence others more convincingly than Bashir, say analysts. In 2010, he was slapped with a nine-year jail term for his involvement in the Aceh camp, while Bashir in the following year was sentenced to 15 years in jail for helping to fund the camp.

Pepi, a self-radicalised former movie scriptwriter, is believed to have good communication skills and to be able to talk others into believing in violent ideology.

Like Aman and Bashir, Pepi is serving his jail term in the maximum security Nusakambangan island prison in Central Java.

In 2012, Pepi was sentenced to 18 years in jail for assembling a book bomb that he sent to a noted moderate Muslim figure, Mr Ulil Abshar- Abdalla, in Jakarta and for various attacks that included a church and a technology and science research centre outside Jakarta. All his attacks were foiled by police.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2016, with the headline 'Jakarta to limit visitation rights of terror inmates'. Print Edition | Subscribe