Sat, 22 Feb 2003

BIN seeks more teeth in dealing with terrorism

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The State Intelligence Agency (BIN) demanded on Friday that it be given extra powers that would enable it to carry out crucial tasks to prevent terrorist attacks throughout the country.

Deputy chief of BIN As'at Said stated that BIN should be given more authority, than the current level that only includes authentication of preliminary reports from investigators.

"Concerning preventive action, the intelligence officers, especially BIN, have not been given sufficient power," As'at told a hearing of the House committee deliberating the terrorism bill on Friday.

Also at the hearing were Indonesian Military (TNI) Chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto and Senior Deputy Governor of Bank Indonesia Anwar Nasution.

Endriartono, who also briefed legislators on terrorism, concurred with As'at, saying that state security forces needed more powers to combat terrorism.

According to As'at, extra authority was necessary to prevent terror acts by arresting suspected terrorists before they can blow something up or kill loads of people. BIN, he added, could be allowed to detain some suspects for four days for questioning to assist the investigation.

Article 26 of the terrorism bill stipulates (in an attempt) to obtain enough evidence before starting an investigation, that the state investigators could use reports provided by intelligence officials that have been authenticated by the head of BIN.

In the explanatory section of that article, the evidence refers to that with which someone could be suspected of committing a terrorist act.

The article will amend the intelligence body's authorities stipulated in the government regulation in lieu of a law on antiterrorism, which remains the current standard. The regulation has been widely criticized, by those who feel they could be targeted, as an opportunity for rights violations.

During the hearing, which was presided over by committee chairman Ibrahim Ambong of Golkar, Endriartono acknowledged that there were fears of a possible revival of an authoritarian regime should the state security apparatus be given extra power.

The general, however, assured such a condition would not happen.

"Situations have changed. If the current government reinstates authoritarianism, it will certainly be opposed by protesters," Endriartono said.

A number of legislators said they would reject the demand to give BIN more power.

J.E. Sahetapy and Trimedya Panjaitan from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) warned that the power given to BIN would upset the judicial system.

"Investigative powers given to BIN will create problems with the criminal judicial system. The right to investigate should be in the hands of the police," Sahetapy said.

Trimedya added that the power of investigation given to BIN would overlap with the police authority. "That would be a setback," he said.

Previously, criminal law expert Loebby Loeqman also rejected any article, which gives BIN power over judicial matters.

Meanwhile deputy BI Governor Anwar Nasution spoke about the need for an article which deals with freezing bank accounts of terrorists.