Ex-Batam official who joined ISIS faces life sentence

Prosecutors will table an indictment, using the country's anti-terror law, to hold Dwi Djoko Wiwoho accountable for his action. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/DWI DJOKO WIWOHO

JAKARTA - A former Indonesian civil servant who left for Syria with his extended family two years ago to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) faces a life sentence if found guilty of terrorism charges.

Indonesia's prosecutors yesterday (March 13) read out their indictment at the trial of Dwi Djoko Wiwoho, former director of the Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board's licensing office on Batam island.

Dwi Djoko faces two charges. He is accused of intentionally creating a terror threat by undergoing paramilitary training in Raqqa, Syria and of assisting and funding an act of terrorism. The first charge carries the life sentence, while the second charge has a maximum sentence of 15 years' jail.

"ISIS agresssion does not take place only in Syria, but has also spread to Indonesia. ISIS followers here are using all means to create terror and public fear," said prosecutor Jaya Siahaan in his opening remarks yesterday.

Mr Jaya told the court that Dwi Djoko sold his house in July 2015 and used part of the sale proceeds to fund the trip to Syria.

According to court documents seen by The Straits Times, Dwi Djoko, his wife and children, along with in-laws, nephews and nieces - a group of 26 in total - left for Istanbul, Turkey on Aug 1, 2015 to meet a contact there who then helped them cross over to Syria and link up with militant group ISIS.

The group had about 640 million rupiah (S$64,000) in total to fund the trip, including to cover payments for plane tickets and hotel rooms. Dwi Djoko's family contributed 300 million rupiah to the fund.

Dwi Djoko's brother in-law Iman Santosa, alias Abu Umar, is believed to have strongly influenced the family to migrate to Syria, making most of the arrangements for the trip. Iman is facing separate terrorism charges.

The group may have had help organising the trip from a terrorist cell in Cirebon, West Java, a government source told The Straits Times.

An Indonesian named Abu Habsoh contacted Iman when the family reached Istanbul. After spending three nights in Istanbul, the group was told to move to a hotel in Malatya, then to another hotel in Mersin, both cities in Turkey close to the border with Syria.

Abu Habsoh then advised the family to split up into four groups - each consisting of five to eight people - to avoid detection by the Turkish authorities.

Of the 26 family members, 19 managed to cross over to Syria, while the rest were caught by the local authorities in Turkey and deported to Indonesia. Of those who managed to cross over, only one family member, Darwanto, fought alongside ISIS.

The remaining men claimed they declined the offer to become ISIS fighters and that their intention to migrate and join ISIS was to become common civilians in a place that applies Sharia, or Muslim, law. They claimed they were enticed by misleading reports on the internet that said ISIS would provide them with nice jobs, good housing and free education.

After two years in Raqqa and after several aborted attempts to leave, the group eventually managed to cross over to Iraq and return to Indonesia.

"Dwi Djoko's action reflects his devotion to the religion and he was exposed to bad influence from Iman Santoso," defence lawyer Asluddin Hatjani told The Straits Times.

"He had no intention to commit a terror act. This was proven by his choice to not continue participating in the paramilitary training and his objection to becoming an ISIS soldier," Mr Asluddin added.

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