Indonesia's improved anti-terror Bill to allow for longer detention, pre-emptive arrests

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

JAKARTA - Improvements to an anti-terror law expected to be passed on Friday (May 25) 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 on Thursday. In the past, this seven-day limit had forced police investigators to release suspects while they were still attempting to build a case and gather evidence to prosecute ahead of a definitive detention. 

The definitive detention is expected to be extended from 180 days to 290, of which 200 will be allocated for police investigators to prepare an investigation dossier and 90 for state prosecutors to prepare an indictment to be tabled to court.

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 the coordinated suicide bombings of three churches in Surabaya, East Java, on May 14, which killed 14 innocent people.

Clause 28 of the almost-completed draft anti-terror 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."

On Wednesday and Thursday, the government and Parliament intensively deliberated a few final minor technical issues, including the definition of terrorism that should be listed in the Bill.

 
 

A Parliament plenary session is scheduled for Friday.

Revisions to the law will also penalise anyone who is a member of any group declared by a court as 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 - such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) - 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 any potentially explosive substances, chemical and biological weapons, among others, that could be used in a terror attack or are proven to have been used in an attack.

Another clause mandates Tentara Nasional Indonesia - the armed forces - to be roped in to help police fight terrorism. It, however, leaves the details to be stipulated by a presidential regulation that must be issued within a year after the Bill is passed into law.

Clause 34A allows any witness in a terrorism trial to testify via a video conference.

This is a breakthrough in the outdated Indonesian witness management system, which currently requires witnesses to 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.

However, it falls short of extending punishment to anyone pledging support or being a member of groups such as the ISIS-inspired Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), which played a role in inciting suicide bombers behind the Surabaya church attacks.

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.

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

Failure to pay compensation - the amount of which is to be decided by state prosecutors - will result in terrorists getting an additional prison sentence of one to four years.

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

The assistance must include medical treatment, psychosocial and psychological rehabilitation and money for families who lose their loved ones.