Indonesia prisons feed Isis: study 


So-called Islamic State is increasingly looking towards Asean. Source: Flickr

So-called Islamic State is allegedly flourishing in Indonesia’s 70 prisons, taking advantage of the archipelago’s poverty, a report has warned. 

The Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict or IPAC’s study said the government’s attempt to stop radicalism spreading in prisons were ineffective.

The prison authorities allowed the Islamic State’s principal leader in Indonesia to use a mobile phone and website to disseminate jihadi propaganda and help plan last January’s largely unsuccessful attack on Jakarta.

“The obstacles to effective prison management remain overwhelming,” said Sidney Jones, IPAC director. “Prisons are overcrowded and understaffed, corruption is rife and inadequate budgets make it easier for well-funded extremists to recruit inmates when they can offer extra food. No de-radicalisation programme is going to be effective unless some of these issues are addressed.”

To counter this process Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency, the General Intelligence Directorate (GID), has been working with Indonesia’s National Counter-terrorism Agency, or BNPT.

The BNPT’s General Suhardi Alius visited Saudi Arabia this month to get tips on the GID’s de-radicalisation programme.

“The visit should help up set up a counter-terrorism programme which includes de-radicalisation, from top to bottom,” said Suhardi.

He visited the Muhammad bin Naif Consultation and Guidance Centre in Saudi Arabia to study rehabilitation of former extremists and to learn from their experience of preventing Muslim groups from being radicalised.

“We exchanged various information and knowledge. We also saw how de-radicalisation is done by the Saudi government,” said Suhardi.

The Saudi de-radicalisation programme includes counselling inside prisons. Inmates explain their ideological motivation to clerics before embarking on a religious course.

The IPAC report said work was needed immediately: “Pro-Isis inmates continue to recruit and radicalise fellow prisoners with impunity. A few have organised terrorist actions from inside prison more than once, and former prisoners continue to show up in new terrorist plots with alarming regularity.”

The study said last year that 120 alleged militants were imprisoned, most of them for supporting Isis while 50 were released after completing similar sentences.

“Budgeting for prisons is so inadequate that prisoners depend on outside donations for decent food,” IPAC said. “And the convicted terrorists have a well-organised support network that attracts ordinary criminals into their ranks.”

Other analysts fear the sprawling, impoverished nation with its dense jungle could become another centre for Islamist insurgency.

Robert Maginnis, author of the book Future War, said that Indonesia was an ideal Isis breeding ground.

“The Islamist problem for Indonesia is partly the fault of topography,” Maginnis said. “It is located in the middle of a rough neighbourhood seething with militant groups that thrive alongside organised crime syndicates that sustain their treasuries by engaging in piracy, kidnapping and smuggling of weapons and drugs. It is naive to conclude Isis isn’t present and planning operations among the world’s largest Muslim population and surrounded by countries known to have active Isis affiliates.”

Almost 90 per cent of Indonesia’s 260 million citizens are Muslim with around 41 per cent living below the international poverty level of US$1.25 per day.