Thu, 18 Sep 2003

'We can't blame police without the full story'

The recent arrest of some Indonesian nationals, who had formerly fought in Afghanistan, for their alleged links to terrorist networks and activities has sparked public criticism from activists. Rights activists have reported that 13 people from Muslim communities had disappeared in Lampung, Jakarta and Central Java. Police have denied the arrests were "abductions", since they had followed proper procedures as laid down in Law No. 15/2003 on terrorism. The Jakarta Post talked to some people on the issue.

Soni Hakim, 35, works at a multinational company on Jl. Jend. Sudirman, South Jakarta, and lives in Cibinong, West Java, with his wife and three children:

I think if the police followed legal procedures, the arrests are justified, particularly if security personnel have complied with the Antiterrorism Law.

However, if the public found out the police did not have arrest warrants prior to detaining the individuals, perhaps it is not acceptable.

Then again, maybe the police have special procedures in arresting suspected terrorists -- like there may be no need to have any proof prior to the arrest, and suspicion is enough.

The problem is that I have never read the key articles of the Antiterrorism Law, so I could not judge the police nor their measures simply based on hearsay and the public's criticisms.

We cannot just blame the security authorities without being fully informed. It's a wonder to me that so many people are caught up in such rumors and protests without really understanding the content of the articles in the law.

Dewi, 21, works at a hotel on Jl. MH Thamrin, Central Jakarta. She lives in Karet, South Jakarta:

I dare to say that the police were not professional in this case. They arrested some people for allegedly having links with terrorist activities.

There probably isn't enough proof for the suspicion to begin with, and in any case, the police issued arrest warrants after the people had already been taken into custody.

I'm afraid this case will only worsen the image of the police. It gives the impression that the police may have a tendency to overreact in order to curb terrorism here.

I know the effort was meant to prove to the public that the police are taking their work seriously, but really, it hasn't done them any favors.

I would rather ask that the police be more careful when arresting people, because the arrests don't prove their guilt, do they?

Heru, 27, is a newspaper boy in Parung, Bogor. He lives in Depok with his family:

I think the recent arrests go against legal procedures. Police officers cannot take arbitrary measures based on suspicion.

It would be smarter if the police staked out whomever they suspected of having links with terrorist networks before making a move.

Intelligence officers should work extra hard to collect more proof before making any arrests. Otherwise, they'll just make another false arrest.

Besides, terrorism is a high-profile case, so police shouldn't be so careless as to investigate people based on unfounded information -- they're working in full view of the public eye.

-- Leo Wahyudi S.