Friday, July 16, 2010

One Year After Indonesia Terrorist Attacks, Has Justice Been Served?

Not long after the capital was rocked by twin hotel bomb attacks in the heart of Jakarta's central business district a year ago today, the public was reassured by what appeared to be a systematic effort to track down the perpetrators and take them to court. In one raid after another, police officers hunted down, arrested and killed terrorist suspects. And by February of this year, seven months after the attacks that killed seven people, plus the two suicide bombers, the trial of the first suspect — Amir Abdillah, a driver and courier for the late militant Noordin M Top — began. However, despite the speedy police operations and legal proceedings, all six suspects, whose trials all concluded with guilty verdicts, received jail terms shorter than what the prosecution had asked for.

Big Fish, Small Sentence

Even Amir, who was not only found guilty of a role in the bombings but also for a plot to assassinate President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was sentenced to only eight years in jail, two years less than what was sought by the prosecution. “Amir appears to be the biggest fish among those tried by the South Jakarta District Court and he was the only one to face multiple charges that also carried the death sentence,” said Mohd Adhe Bhakti, an independent researcher on terrorism who monitored the hearings. “I expected that he would get at least 20 years. But the judges considered that he had been very cooperative and helpful in providing information that led to the arrests of other suspects,” Adhe said in a recent interview with the Jakarta Globe.

“No wonder he immediately accepted his verdict without wasting any time consulting with his lawyers. That’s a rarity in a terrorism trial.” A former hotel employee in Jakarta, Amir was present at nearly all occasions before, during and after the attacks on the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels. He accompanied Noordin at the meeting to discuss the attacks, picked up the explosive materials from a West Java town, drove the field coordinator who instructed the suicide bombers through a cellphone on the day of the bombings and took part in the post-attack gathering in a Bekasi home. He also admitted in court to being involved in a reconnaissance trip to map the route of the presidential motorcade near Yudhoyono’s private residence in Cikeas, Bogor, with a group that was planning a car bomb attack.

The president was targeted for giving his blessing to the execution of a trio of militants convicted for the 2002 Bali bombings. “Yes, Amir was everywhere, but he is nobody,” his lawyer, Asludin Hatjani, said in a separate interview. “His job was mainly as a driver for Noordin and it was only business. Noordin paid for the car, and Amir borrowed it from his brother.”

Other convicted terrorists include Muhammad Jibriel, who runs an Islamic Web site that supports violent jihad and offers rationales for martyrdom. The judges convicted him of concealing information about wanted terrorist suspects, because he had met Noordin before the attacks but failed to report the meeting to authorities. He was acquitted of another charge of helping to finance terrorism. By the time the dust cleared at the courthouse, he was sentenced to five years in jail, again, two years less than what the prosecution wanted.

Three more defendants — Aris Susanto, Supono and Rohmat Puji Prabowo — also got jail terms for harboring and concealing information about the bombers. But again, none of them received the maximum sentence. Al Khelaiw Ali Abdullah, the only foreigner among the defendants, escaped a terrorism conviction, but will serve 18 months in jail for an immigration offense. Prosecutors had recommended a nine-year term for financing the bombings, but the panel said they couldn’t find evidence that linked him to the attacks. The judges said Abdullah had relationships with several militants in the Noordin group because he used them as interpreters and they helped him establish a business in Indonesia.

Recidivism Risk

The problem with the relatively lenient sentences for the hotel bombers, said intelligent analyst Dynno Cresbon, is that it could further cultivate recidivism among terror convicts, a trend authorities have been aware of since multiple attacks rocked Indonesia following the 2002 Bali bombings. “The perpetrators of those attacks were basically the same people. And several suspects arrested or killed after last year’s hotel bombings had earlier participated in the 2004 attack on the Australian Embassy compound in Jakarta,” Dynno said on Friday. “Courts need to hand down more serious sentences to convicted militants, otherwise they may plan more attacks in the future. We have learned that one hotel, JW Marriott, has been attacked twice by the same group.”

In the wake of the Bali bombings, the government issued its tough antiterror law under which five militants have been sentenced to death for the attacks in Bali and on the Australian Embassy in the capital. Dynno said several defendants in last year’s bombings were able to escape more serious charges in part because the judges were unable to understand the IT-based evidence. That may have been the case with Jibriel, who was accused of funding the attacks based on an e-mail sent to his brother. But it remained debatable if an e-mail could be used as evidence in a terror trial and the judges eventually only convicted him of concealing information about Noordin.

Aside from the six who have already received verdicts, the South Jakarta District Court is trying four other suspects. Two students and a recent graduate of Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University (UIN) in Ciputat, Tangerang, are still awaiting verdicts, with prosecutors demanding seven years for each. The three defendants — Afham Ramadhan, Sonny Jayadi and Fajar Firdaus — are charged with harboring militants Saefudin Zuhri and Mohammad Syahrir, who were wanted by police for carrying out the attacks. The defendants allegedly rented a room at a boarding house near the university for Saefudin and Syahrir and occasionally brought them food.

The two were eventually killed in a shootout with police at the boarding house.

The last and the only female defendant at the South Jakarta Court is Putri Munawaroh, who claimed she had already paid dearly for a crime she never committed even before the court delivered a verdict.

Prosecutors have urged the judges to sentence her to eight years in jail.
By Heru Andriyanto

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