JAKARTA • Indonesian President Joko Widodo has said he will grant amnesty to Aceh's "most wanted man", rebel leader Din Minimi, a decision that has divided the country's security forces.
Din Minimi, whose real name is Nurdin Ismail, turned himself in last week to the authorities alongside several dozen men. They also surrendered 15 assault rifles and a sack of ammunition, the Jakarta Globe newspaper reported on its online edition yesterday.
The rebel group, a splinter of the now-disbanded separatist group Free Aceh Movement (GAM), is allegedly responsible for attacks last year against police officers and soldiers in East Aceh. GAM fought for years against Jakarta's rule in Aceh, Indonesia's oil- and gas-rich westernmost province, before striking a peace deal in return for an autonomy offer in 2005.
While supporters painted Din Minimi as a "Robin Hood" figure who used stolen funds to help those neglected by the authorities, critics said he led an armed group allegedly responsible for crimes including the kidnapping and killing of military personnel, Agence France-Presse reported last week.
Mr Joko told a meeting on security matters in his Jakarta office on Tuesday: "Since the beginning, I have conveyed to State Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Sutiyoso that amnesty will be provided."
He said the move will be "based on the principles of human rights, as well as in accordance with the country's prevailing laws and regulations", the Globe quoted him as saying.
According to media reports, Din Minimi surrendered after months- long talks involving Mr Sutiyoso, with "absolution" of the rebel's past activities one of the terms of the surrender. It is not clear how many of his men received the same amnesty.
The amnesty has been questioned by others who said he should face the law for his past crimes.
Mr Effendi Simbolon, a member of the Indonesian Parliament's Commission I that oversees defence and foreign affairs, said last week that the government was wrong to compromise with Din Minimi and the other insurgents.
"Why on earth is the President allowing terrorists to dictate terms? Why on earth are we, a sovereign nation, compromising with separatists? Is Jokowi aware (of potential consequences)?" Mr Effendi was quoted as saying by Kompas newspaper.
National police chief General Badrodin Haiti said Din Minimi is wanted in 14 cases ranging from murder to robbery, and he questioned the authority of intelligence chief Sutiyoso in offering the amnesty in the secret talks.
Mr Sutiyoso has said the rebels were neither separatists nor criminals, but simply disgruntled former GAM members unhappy at GAM's administration of Aceh.