JAKARTA, Feb 21, 2016:
Indonesian police on Sunday released most of the men detained while attending military-style training at a suspect jihadi camp, as officials lamented weaknesses in the current anti-terrorism legislation that is due to be significantly strengthened following last month’s deadly attacks in Jakarta.
The elite anti-terrorism squad early Saturday arrested 38 men at a suspected militant camp on the remote slopes of Mount Sumbing in Central Java province, said provincial police spokesman Col. Liliek Darmanto. Police seized air rifles, knives, and jihadi books and flags in the raid.
However, they were released early Sunday after 24-hour questioning as police were unable to prove a string of terrorism-related allegations, he said.
“This is the weakness of our laws,” said Said Usman Nasution, head of the anti-terrorism agency. “We cannot arrest before they have committed a crime even though we can detect a radical network.”
His agency has been pushing the government to strengthen the anti-terrorism law. It gained momentum following the Jan 14 suicide and gun attacks in Jakarta, which left eight people dead, including four of the attackers.
In response to the attacks, Indonesia’s government submitted a new anti-terrorism law to Parliament this past week.
The draft bill, obtained by The Associated Press, says an individual suspected of plotting to carry out an act of terrorism could be detained for up to six months without charges. If approved, it would be the first time for such a tough measure to be enacted since the downfall of dictator Suharto in 1998.
Luhut Pandjaitan, a Cabinet minister in charge of security and political affairs, said he expected lawmakers to pass the revisions within the next two months.
The bill would also become an offence for Indonesians to join a militant group overseas such as the Islamic State group, or recruit others, with a maximum imprisonment of seven years.
It would also authorise the anti-terrorism squad to execute raids and arrest suspects for interrogation based solely on intelligence reports.
In addition to the Central Java raid, five other suspected militants were captured late on Friday in Malang, a hilly city in East Java province, said local police chief Lt-Col Yudho Nugroho.
He said police were tipped about their whereabouts after interrogating alleged militants arrested earlier on suspicion of links to the Jakarta attack. National police chief Gen Badrodin Haiti told lawmakers last week that police had arrested a total of 33 people in connection with the attack.
Indonesia, home to more than 225 million Muslims, has suffered a spate of deadly attacks by the Jemaaah Islamiyah network in the past. But in recent years, the attacks have been smaller and less deadly and have targeted government agencies, mainly police and anti-terrorism forces.