Indonesia's anti-terror Bill to extend detention

Anti-terror police conduct a raid in Tangerang, Indonesia, on May 16, 2018.
Anti-terror police conduct a raid in Tangerang, Indonesia, on May 16, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

Suspects may be detained, based on preliminary evidence, for up to 21 days

Changes to an anti-terror law expected to be passed today will allow the Indonesian authorities to hold anyone suspected of planning a terror attack, based on preliminary leads, for up to 21 days.

The move extends the current seven-day maximum period, according to a draft anti-terror Bill seen by The Straits Times yesterday.

The current seven-day limit forces police to release suspects while they are attempting to build a case and gather evidence to prosecute.

Once more definitive evidence has been collected, the detention period for suspects is to be extended from 180 days to 290, of which 200 will be allocated for police and 90 for state prosecutors.

The proposed legislation is part of sweeping changes to Indonesia's anti-terror Bill that President Joko Widodo proposed in early 2016.

Its deliberation has been sped up since recent coordinated suicide bombings of three churches in Surabaya killed 14 innocent people.

Clause 28 of the draft Bill reads: "Police investigators may detain any terrorist suspect based on preliminary evidence for as long as 14 days. In the case that it is deemed insufficient, police may request the attorney-general office for a maximum seven-day extension."

In a pressing situation, police would be allowed to wiretap phone conversations of suspected militants and report to a court only within the next three days afterwards. Currently, a court's written consent is required beforehand.

On Wednesday and yesterday, the government and Parliament intensively deliberated a few final minor technical issues, including the Bill's definition of terrorism.

A Parliament plenary session is scheduled for today. Revisions to the law will also penalise anyone who is a member of any group declared by a court to be a terrorist organisation, even if the person has not committed any concrete act of planning or launching an attack.

This stipulation would allow police to act pre-emptively before any attack is carried out.

"Anyone being a member or anyone recruiting others to be members... may face a minimum two years and maximum seven years of jail term," according to the draft Bill. "Founders, leaders, officials, or anyone controlling the organisation face a minimum three and maximum 12 years."

The draft Bill also makes it an offence for citizens to join a militant group overseas and widens the range of firearms to include chemical, biological, radiological, micro-organism, nuclear and radioactive weapons.

It also penalises anyone involved in the sale of potentially explosive substances, chemical and biological weapons, among others, that could be used in a terror attack or have been used in an attack.

Another clause mandates the military to help police fight terrorism. However, it leaves the details to be stipulated by a presidential regulation that must be issued within a year after the Bill is passed.

Clause 34A allows any witness in a terrorism trial to testify via a video conference. Currently, witnesses must appear in court physically.

Prosecutors have had problems getting important witnesses to testify or talk openly - especially followers of influential terrorist ideologues who are facing trial.

Indonesia's current anti-terrorism law, enacted in 2003 following the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, can punish anyone who plans or launches an attack, or assists and funds any planned attack.

But it falls short of extending punishment to anyone pledging support or being a member of groups like the ISIS-inspired Jemaah Ansharut Daulah, which played a role in the Surabaya church attacks. This has been a bugbear for police.

Clause 36A of the revised law also stipulates that victims of terror attacks are entitled to be indemnified by terrorists or their families.

Failure to pay compensation will result in terrorists getting an additional one to four years in jail.

The government would also be required to guarantee the welfare of terror attack victims and their families if they lose their breadwinner.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2018, with the headline 'Indonesia's anti-terror Bill to extend detention'. Print Edition | Subscribe