Sat, 26 Apr 2003

Govt gets thumb-up over terrorist network bust

Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government's crackdown against an alleged terrorist network operating in the country has won praise from analysts and the United States.

Kusnanto Anggoro of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said the recent arrest of 18 alleged Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) members and the ongoing trial of JI leader Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, as well as the impending trial of suspected terrorists responsible for the Bali bombings, proved that the administration of President Megawati Soekarnoputri was serious in combating terrorism.

"The government should maintain its current measures against terrorism in the near future as the action has increased its credibility," said Kusnanto.

"As long as the measures against terrorists are taken with solid proof like has been the case so far, the people and the political parties will support rather than reject the government's actions," he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell also praised Indonesia's moves against terrorism, including the trial of Ba'asyir for treason, saying that Indonesia had finally woken up to the threat of terrorism within its borders.

The United States pressured the government to crack down on terror suspects after launching its antiterror war, which was triggered by the Sept. 11 attacks.

Indonesia has "finally awakened to the threat of terrorism within its own borders and has worked hard and arrested many of the perpetrators of the terrible Bali bombing and brought to justice the leader of one of the terrorist organizations that claimed responsibility," Powell was quoted by Agence France- Presse as saying in a speech to the United States Asia-Pacific Council.

According to Kusnanto, although the political atmosphere would heat up next year amid the election campaign, with its good track record so far, the government should not hesitate to strengthen its efforts to combat terrorism.

Following the deadly Bali bombing on Oct. 12, which killed over 200 people and injured more than 350 others, the government drafted an antiterrorism regulation providing for the death sentence for the perpetrators of terrorism. The regulation was later incorporated into the terrorism bill by the House of Representatives, and has since been passed into law.

The police have also arrested dozens of the suspected perpetrators of the Bali bombings, including those from JI. Their trials are expected to start next month in Denpasar, Bali.

On Wednesday, Ba'asyir went on trial in Jakarta on charges of treason, which is punishable with life imprisonment.

On the same day, the police announced the arrest of 18 JI members as part of its counterterrorism measures.

JI is also implicated in a string of other attacks, and has been linked by some observers to the al-Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden.

Hermawan Sulistyo of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) concurred with Kusnanto.

"The government gained the opportunity to crack down on terrorism at home after the Bali bombing, and looks likely to continue these efforts," he said.