Indonesia plans to further separate terrorist inmates by moving them out of prison island: Minister

Indonesia is planning to separate its terrorist inmates by moving them out of Nusakambangan prison island.
Indonesia is planning to separate its terrorist inmates by moving them out of Nusakambangan prison island.ST PHOTO: WAHYUDI SOERIAATMADJA

Indonesia plans to further separate terrorist inmates Abu Bakar Bashir and Aman Abdurrahman by moving them out of Nusakambangan prison island, where they have already been locked up in isolation cells.

One of the two leaders of the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) militant group may even be moved to a remote prison complex in West Kalimantan, said Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly on Thursday (April 7).

He added that the government decided to move the clerics away from Nusakambangan to curb their influence on other inmates as well as their followers outside of prison.

"When we visited Nusakambangan in February, Menkopolhukam (and I) agreed that we should not put too many terrorists in one place," he said after a Cabinet meeting at the Presidential Palace on Thursday afternoon.

Menkopolhukam is the Indonesian designation of Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan, who with Mr Yasonna, oversees the state penitentiary system.

Responding to questions on when and where Aman and Bashir will be relocated, Mr Yasonna would only say that the government is deciding whether to use a prison in Bengkayang regency, West Kalimantan for some high-profile terrorists.

"Some of them will be moved... but we will discuss further with BNPT and other parties," he added, referring to the Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Terorisme (BNPT), or the national counter-terrorism agency.

When pressed to confirm if both Aman and Bashir will be transferred to Bengkayang, Mr Yasonna only said: "No, Bashir is not going there, he is too old, we leave this to BNPT to decide who are fit to be moved there."

Aman and Bashir were jailed in 2010 for setting up of a JI militant training camp in Aceh.

Bashir, the spiritual leader of the now disbanded JI, is appealing against his extended prison sentence, while Aman could be released as early as December in 2018.

Both were sent to isolation cells after initial police investigations found that they may be involved in the Jan 14 terror attack in Jakarta that killed four bystanders.

The probe has now shifted its focus on Aman, after the police discovered that the four militants who mounted the strike on the capital had visited Aman in prison at least three times before the attack.

Indonesian intelligence had also traced phone calls originating from Nusakambangan, a maximum-security prison complex, to Syria.

Aman is suspected to have made some of those calls to someone in Raqqa, the stronghold of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

A source told The Straits Times previously that calls were uncovered by investigators examining 14 mobile phones found in a jail cell shared by Aman and JI operative Iwan Darmawan Muntho, alias Rois.