Thu, 25 Sep 2003

Three RI students arrested for JI links in Pakistan hail from C. Java

Blontank Poer, The Jakarta Post, Boyolali, Central Java

Three of six Indonesian students arrested by Pakistan authorities had graduated from the Darusy Syahadah Islamic boarding school in Ngruki, Boyolali, Central Java, the school's principal, Muttaqiem, said on Wednesday.

The three, according to Muttaqiem, are Mohammad Syaifuddin bin Abu Umar, Muhammad Anwar Asshidiqie and David Pintarto.

"The three were high achievers. Syaifuddin and David always ranked first ever since entering the school until they graduated, while Anwar was also a brilliant and outstanding student," Muttaqiem said.

"The three others are not graduates of our school," Muttaqiem told reporters in his school compound in Kalilengkong, Boyolali regency.

Muttaqiem was referring to Ilham Sopandi, Furqon Abdullah and Rusman Gunawan, known also as Gun Gun, a brother of terrorist suspect Riduan Isamuddin, alias Hambali.

Now in U.S. detention at an undisclosed area, Hambali is believed to be the leader of regional terrorist network Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), which has been blamed for a series of terrorist attacks in the country, including the Bali bombing last October and the JW Marriot Hotel attack on Aug. 5.

Pakistani authorities are currently detaining six Indonesian students for alleged links with terrorist activities.

Muttaqiem said the three Darusy Syahadah graduates had been in different classes. Syaifuddin, hailing from Sleman, Yogyakarta, graduated in 1998.

Muhammad Anwar Asshidiqie, who graduated in 2001, came from Magelang, Central Java, while David Pintarto, from Aceh, graduated just last year.

According to Muttaqiem, the three continued their studies overseas at their own initiative and expense.

He acknowledged that many of his students had tried their luck in entering the Abubakar Islamic University in Karachi, Pakistan, but due to tight competition only few of them were accepted.

Muttaqiem said he was shocked by the arrests, and did not believe that the three were involved in terrorism. He demanded that the Indonesian government fight for their release, because, according to him, they were not guilty.

He also denied reports that he was a lecturer at Al-Mukmin Islamic boarding school in Ngruki, Sukohardjo, led by Abu Bakar Ba'asyir.

Ba'asyir was accused of leading terrorist network JI, but an Indonesian court exonerated him recently from this charge. However, he was sentenced by the court to four years in jail for immigration violations and treason.

Muttaqiem, however, admitted that he had graduated from Al- Mukmin in 1993, but said he had never taught there. He left Al- Mukmin in 1994 and set up his own Islamic boarding school in nearby Ngruki.

The new boarding school was run by the Yasmin Foundation in Surakarta, and currently has 387 male students.

Meanwhile, reports were swirling that three of the six students had used fake documents to gain the necessary paperwork to enter Pakistan.

The first allegation was about David, whose identity card states that an address in Penawangan district, Grobogan regency, Central Java, is his official address, while people know that he is originally from Aceh.

Furqon Abdullah and Ilham Sopandi have also been accused of using fake documents because they used the same address on their identity cards whereas they are not related. The address was in Pelem village, Simo district, Boyolali regency.

Pelem village head Suharto said there were no residents in the village named Furqon Abdullah and Ilham Sopandi.

Suharto, who has been village head since 1998, asserted that he personally knew every resident of the village and was sure nobody of those names lived there.