Indonesian lawmakers push for tougher anti-terror laws after Solo suicide bombing

Indonesian police officers stand guard after a suicide bomb attack at the Police Headquarters in Solo, Central Java, Indonesia, on July 5.
Indonesian police officers stand guard after a suicide bomb attack at the Police Headquarters in Solo, Central Java, Indonesia, on July 5. PHOTO: EPA

JAKARTA - Lawmakers in Indonesia are pushing for a draft Bill which expands police powers in counter-terrorism to be passed following Tuesday’s suicide bombing in Solo, Central Java.

Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly said revisions to the Anti-Terrorism Bill of 2003, still being deliberated by Parliament, must be prioritised to prevent further attacks.

“The incident in Solo makes us realise again that the threat of terrorism is real,” Mr Yasonna said on the sidelines of an Idul Fitri event on Wednesday (July 6) night. “It’s a global phenomenon... and it will continue.”

House Speaker Ade Komarudin and his counterpart in the People’s Consultative Assembly, Mr Zulkifli Hasan, in a rare unified voice, echoed the call to pass the tougher anti-terror laws which have been in deliberation for months. 

Mr Ade said on Wednesday in Tempo news that the latest incident is a new impetus for the draft Bill, first tabled by the government after the Jan 14 terror attack in Jakarta.

He said proposed changes to the law must be able to counter terrorism “structurally and intellectually”, and that “people would not blow themselves up” if they had not been wrongly indoctrinated.

“Terrorism covers things such as ideology, education, and religion,” said the head of Indonesia’s House of Representatives. “And education is important to prevent terrorism.”

Mr Zulkifli on Wednesday also called for unity in the fight against terrorism, calling it a violation of human rights”.

He told Antara news that he hoped that the revisions of the anti-terror Bill will be completed this year. “The faster it is completed, the better it will be,” he added.

Their comments came a day after a suicide bomber, a local man named Nur Rohman who was on a terrorist wanted list, blew himself up outside a police station in the hometown of President Joko Widodo.   

An officer who intercepted the attacker before he got near the station was wounded. 

Nur Rohman was a member of a domestic terror cell that had ties to Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian militant now fighting for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The Solo bombing was just one of several attacks that security analysts say may be coordinated strikes around the world by militants loyal to the militant group during the holy month of Ramadan.

Indonesia’s Anti-Terrorism Bill, first enacted the year after the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, makes it illegal for anyone who runs a terrorist cell. However, it falls short of extending punishment to anyone pledging support to or joining groups such as ISIS, for instance.

This has been a bugbear for the police, often hampering their ability to put terrorists behind bars or prevent terror suspects from carrying out attacks.

Hundreds of Indonesians have travelled to the Middle East to support or fight for ISIS since 2013. Security chiefs have lamented that the lack of tougher anti-terror laws enables such people to return to Indonesia without the risk of prosecution.

Many terrorist suspects arrested in connection with the Jakarta attack earlier this year had to be released because current laws prevent them from being held for extended periods unless the police have sufficient evidence.

Once the proposed changes to the anti-terror Bill are passed, the police will be able to hold people suspected of terror attack plots for up to six months.

The revised law will also make it illegal for Indonesians to join militant groups like ISIS overseas, while providing a clearer definition of terrorism.

Other changes being discussed by lawmakers include revoking the citizenship and barring the return of Indonesians who engage in terrorism activities overseas.