Jakarta attacks directed by death row terrorist from jail

Australian embassy bomber Iwan Darmawan Munto, alias Rois.
Australian embassy bomber Iwan Darmawan Munto, alias Rois.

Fellow militant says mastermind of attacks used cellphones smuggled in by his followers

The ongoing trial of a radical Indonesia ideologue has revealed a disturbing fact: the 2016 Jakarta attacks that killed four innocent by-standers was directed by a death row terrorist inmate whose verdict was handed-down 13 years ago.

Australian embassy bomber Iwan Darmawan Munto, alias Rois, arranged the funding and procurement of firearms for the attacks, said their field coordinator, Abu Gar, in a recent court hearing.

He said Rois, 42, used mobile phones his followers had smuggled into his cell to communicate with the would-be suicide bombers.

The terrorist's case is the tip of an iceberg highlighting the loopholes in the weak Indonesia legal system that had resulted in terror attacks that could have been avoided.

Abu Gar, whose real name is Saiful Muhtorir, was testifying in the ongoing trial related to radical preacher Aman Abdurrahman, and said he met Rois three times in late 2015 in his cell to discuss the attack plan.

"After that, I communicated with Rois via Telegram (mobile messaging application). He gave me two contact numbers which I then passed to M. Ali," Abu Gar said, referring to the leading militant who carried out the attacks.

Rois was at that time in Indonesia's maximum-security Nusakambangan prison in Central Java. Indonesian laws stipulate that inmates, including terror convicts, have the right to receive guests twice a week.

The terrorist's case is the tip of an iceberg highlighting the loopholes in the weak Indonesia legal system that had resulted in terror attacks that could have been avoided.

Shortly after the 2016 Jakarta attacks, Rois, Aman and 16 other high-profile terrorist inmates were moved to isolation cells, with visits restricted to only their closest family members. Rois and Aman shared a cell in prison prior to this.

"Rois had someone deliver an ATM card to me," Abu Gar told the hearing on March 6, with money in the account rising to 200 million rupiah (S$19,000) from 100,000 rupiah. Abu Gar said he withdrew part of the fund and passed it to M. Ali to buy materials to make bombs for the attacks. M. Ali had earlier received firearms from someone that Rois had arranged to procure the arms from South Philippines.

Abu Gar was among the witnesses summoned to testify against Aman, who has been charged with inciting others to commit various terror acts in Indonesia, including the 2016 Jakarta attacks. While in jail, Rois also helped to recruit militants to participate in a paramilitary training camp in Aceh province that police raided in 2010.

Rois was sentenced to death in a Jakarta court for his major role in planning and executing the Australian embassy bombing in Jakarta in 2004.

A convict sentenced to death in Indonesia would be executed only if he has no plan to file the final Civil Review appeal, termed as Peninjauan Kembali (PK). But there is no time limit on when a PK can be filed, leaving discretion to the prosecutors to decide when a death penalty would be executed.

Indonesia's Constitutional Court in 2015 revised a law that stipulated the final PK can only be filed once, said independent lawyer Sylvester Riza, thus allowing the convict to drag out his appeal process for years.

"Death convicts can now file a PK appeal repeatedly. No limit. This is just for death convicts because it's about basic rights," Mr Sylvester told The Straits Times.

The attorney-general's chief spokesman Muhammad Rum did not respond to The Straits Times' queries when contacted on his mobile phones.

Rois fought alongside Muslim separatists in the Philippines' Mindanao between 1997 and 2000 before he joined a terror network in Poso, Central Sulawsi. He was arrested on Nov 5, 2004 in Bogor, West Java.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2018, with the headline 'Jakarta embassy attacks directed by death row terrorist'. Print Edition | Subscribe