May 24, 2018 / 11:46 AM / 3 months ago

Rattled by bombings, Indonesia set to pass tough anti-terror laws

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia’s parliament is expected to adopt tough anti-terrorism laws on Friday as it seeks to combat a surge in homegrown Islamist militancy days after the deadliest attacks since 2002 bombings on the tourist island of Bali.

A policeman stands guard outside a church, one of the three hit by suicide bombers in Surabaya, Indonesia May 13, 2018. Picture taken May 13, 2018. REUTERS/Beawiharta/Files

Revising a 2003 law became a top priority for the world’s biggest Muslim-majority after suicide bombings claimed by Islamic State killed more than 30 people in the country’s second-biggest city of Surabaya this month.

The death toll was the highest since 2002 bomb attacks on nightclubs in Bali, when 202 people, most of them foreign tourists, were killed.

Indonesia subsequently scored some major successes tackling militancy.

But in recent years there has been a resurgence of militant violence and scores of Indonesians have gone to the Middle East to fight for Islamic State, with thousands more believed to be drawing inspiration from the group at home.

The revised law will allow police to preemptively detain suspects for longer and prosecute those who join or recruit for militant groups, according to a draft reviewed by Reuters.

Law enforcement agencies have complained that they lack the power to detain militants suspected of plotting attacks unless a threat is made or an attack actually carried out.

Under the revised law, anyone suspected of planning an attack can be held for up to 21 days, instead of a week, for an initial investigation.

Suspects can then be detained for a formal investigation for up to 120 days without trial and up to 200 days with court approval, compared with 180 days now.

Suspects will also be open to prosecution for joining a “terrorist” organisation, disseminating their teachings, or taking part in military-style training.

Those convicted of smuggling explosives or other chemicals and weapons into or out of the country for “terrorism” will face jail of up to 20 years.

MILITARY INVOLVEMENT

The revised bill was proposed by President Joko Widodo’s government in early 2016, after a gun and suicide-bomb attack in Jakarta, which at the time was the first Islamic State-linked attack in Southeast Asia.

But the bill languished in parliament amid concern over intrusions on human rights and after some parties objected to clauses that could mean greater military involvement in internal security.

The new bill is expected to retain a clause stipulating the military can get involved in anti-terrorism operations only on a request by police and with the approval of the president.

Separately, Widodo’s government has also proposed setting up a special military task force to boost the efforts of the elite counter-terrorism police squad, Detachment, or “Densus”, 88.

Widodo has pledged to use his executive powers to override parliament if it failed to pass the bill by the end of June.

The attacks this month, in which two families, including children as young as eight, carried out suicide attacks on churches and a police station in Surabaya, have added a sense of urgency to the legislation.

Even so, the laws will still not be as tough as some other countries in the region.

Malaysia in 2015 reintroduced a law under which suspects can be detained without trial for up to two years with two-year extensions thereafter.

Additional reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Gayatri Suroyo; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Ed Davies and Robert Birsel

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