Tue, 16 Sep 2003

Arrested or disappeared? Families, police at odds

M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Police admitted on Monday that they had put in custody a number of people suspected of having links with terrorists, but denied suggestions that they had violated basic human rights or the criminal code procedures in arresting them.

National Police Chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar said the accusations from the suspects' family members that the police had kidnapped them were untrue, as the officers had produced arrest warrants prior to taking the suspects in.

"Prior to the arrests, officers in the field issued warrants. However, many family members declined to sign the warrants," Da'i said on the sidelines of a hearing with the House of Representatives' Commission I for defense, security and foreign affairs.

Da'i was quick to add that the arrests of the terror suspects were based on information provided by other suspects who had earlier been captured by the police.

"The information pinpointed their alleged involvement in the recent string of bombings," he said.

Following a series of terrorist attacks in the country, a number of Muslim activists -- some manage mosques, others fought or trained in Afghanistan, some simply harbored a terror suspect -- have been reported missing by their families. The families now are accusing the police of unlawful detention.

The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) reported that 13 activists from community mosques had disappeared in Lampung. The Jakarta Legal Aid Institute received similar reports from 14 families of other Muslim activists.

The most recent accusation of possible police abuse took place in Surakarta, Central Java, last Monday, as three mosque activists were reported missing after doing their daily chores.

Rights groups have said that regardless of their involvement in terrorism or their religious beliefs, the "forced disappearances" constituted a violation of basic human rights.

In the wake of Bali blasts that claimed the lives of 202 people, mostly foreigners, the Indonesian government enacted a harsher antiterrorism law that has given the police greater authority to detain a terror suspect for a maximum of seven straight days based only on intelligence reports.

In a related development, Detective Police chief Comr. Gen. Erwin Mappaseng said the suspects were arrested for their alleged complicity in the latest terrorist attacks.

"Some of them provided refuge for the Bali bombing suspects, others took part in meetings to plan the bombing and to draw up plans on follow-up attacks," he said.

When asked if the suspects might have links to major terrorist suspects now in the custody of the United States government including Indonesian-born Hambali, Mappaseng said: "No, they have no involvement whatsoever with Hambali."

Suspects now in police custody include Ahmad Sofyan, Solihin alias Zaid, Pepen, Rahmat, Sukimin alias Babe, Zubair alias Lutfi, Farhan alias Samsul Bahri, Muhaimin, all captured in Jakarta. Ari Wibowo alias Mustofa, Awaludin alias Abu Yasar and Deni Sitorus captured in Lampung and Ikhsan and Suradi alias Abu Usman were arrested in Surakarta, Central Jakarta.