Indonesian who joined ISIS faces life sentence

He went to Syria with 25 family members but says fighting for militants not their intention

Dwi Djoko Wiwoho (centre), together with his wife, children, in-laws, nephews and nieces, left for Istanbul, Turkey on Aug 1, 2015. The family then crossed into Syria to join the ISIS militant group, court papers said.
Dwi Djoko Wiwoho (centre), together with his wife, children, in-laws, nephews and nieces, left for Istanbul, Turkey on Aug 1, 2015. The family then crossed into Syria to join the ISIS militant group, court papers said.ST PHOTO: WAHYUDI SOERIAATMADJA

A former Indonesian civil servant who left for Syria with his extended family two years ago to join the ISIS militant group faces life in jail if found guilty of terrorism charges.

Dwi Djoko Wiwoho - the former director of the Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board's licensing office in Batam - was indicted in court yesterday, and faces two charges.

He is accused of intentionally creating a terror threat by undergoing paramilitary training in Raqqa, Syria, as well as assisting and funding an act of terrorism. The first charge carries a life sentence, and he faces a maximum sentence of 15 years' jail for the second charge.

Prosecutor Jaya Siahaan, in his opening remarks in court yesterday, said: "ISIS aggression 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."

Mr Jaya said Dwi Djoko, 50, sold his house in July 2015 and used part of the money from the sale to fund the trip to Syria.

According to court papers seen by The Straits Times, Dwi Djoko and his wife and children, along with his in-laws, nephews and nieces, left for Istanbul, Turkey, on Aug 1, 2015, to meet a contact. The contact then helped all 26 cross the border to Syria, and link up with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The group had about 640 million rupiah (S$61,100) to fund the trip, including the cost of plane tickets and hotel rooms. Dwi Djoko's family contributed 300 million rupiah to the fund.

Dwi Djoko's brother in-law Iman Santosa, also known as Abu Umar, is believed to have strongly influenced the family to make the decision to go to Syria, and was the one who made most of the arrangements for the trip. He is facing separate terrorism charges.

The family may have also received help from a terrorist cell in Cirebon, West Java, a government source told The Straits Times.

When the family reached Istanbul, an Indonesian named Abu Habsoh contacted Iman. 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 between five and eight people - to avoid detection by the Turkish authorities.

Of the 26 family members, 19 managed to cross over into Syria, but the rest were caught by Turkish authorities and deported to Indonesia.

Of those who managed to cross over, only one family member, Darwanto, fought alongside ISIS.

The other men claimed that they declined the offer to become ISIS fighters.

Their intention, when they went to Syria and joined ISIS, was to live as civilians in a place that followed syariah law, they said.

They added that they were enticed by misleading reports on the Internet that said ISIS would provide them with good 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 they returned to Indonesia.

Defence lawyer Asluddin Hatjani, speaking to The Straits Times, said: "Dwi Djoko's action reflects his devotion to his religion, and he was under the bad influence of Iman Santoso.

"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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2018, with the headline 'Indonesian who joined ISIS faces life sentence'. Subscribe