Indonesia passes new terror law after attacks using children
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s parliament unanimously approved a tougher anti-terrorism law on Friday, lengthening detention periods and involving the military in counter-terrorism operations, spurred into action by recent bombings that involved children as perpetrators.
Rights groups had criticized some revisions as overly broad or vague and warned against rushing them into law. The scope for the military to become involved in counter-terrorism operations is contentious because it backtracks on two decades of keeping soldiers out of areas under civilian authority.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo had threatened to impose the changes by special decree if parliament didn’t rapidly approve them. Changes were first proposed after a January 2016 suicide bombing and gun attack in Jakarta but languished in the legislature.
Police have killed 14 suspected Islamic militants and arrested 60 since the suicide bombings May 13-14 in Indonesia’s second-largest city, Surabaya, that were carried out by radicalized families, who involved their children, as young as 7, in the attacks.
The suicide bombings, which horrified Muslim-majority Indonesia, killed 26 people, including 13 members of the families that carried them out. The key perpetrator was leader of the Surabaya cell of an Indonesian militant network that professes loyalty to the Islamic State group.
The new law triples the maximum detention period without charge for suspected militants to 21 days and roughly doubles the entire permissible detention period from arrest to trial to more than two years.
Several articles address gaps in the original law from 2003, giving greater legal basis to prosecute individuals such as radical clerics who inspire attacks or Indonesians who traveled abroad to join IS.
The definition of terrorist acts and threats was expanded to include motives of ideology, politics and security disruption. Some lawmakers said that would prevent the law from being abused.
Military involvement in counter-terrorism operations will be defined later by presidential regulation.
Muhammad Syafi’i, chairman of the parliamentary committee that reviewed the new law, said inclusion of the military aims to beef up police capabilities in cracking down on extremism and radical networks in Indonesia.
Indonesia became a democracy after the ouster of dictator Suharto in 1998 and the role of the military, which had enjoyed sweeping powers, was reduced to national defense.
Indonesia’s counterterrorism operations are currently led by an elite police squad, Densus 88, set up following the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed 202 people mostly foreigners. In the past two years, it says it has thwarted as many as 23 terror plots and arrested more than 360 suspected militants.