Indonesia: Reformed Terrorists Host Independence Day Ceremony

Eko Widianto
Lamongan, Indonesia
2017-08-17
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170817-Indonesia-620.jpg Ali Fauzi Manzi reads Indonesia’s Independence Proclamation during a flag-raising ceremony to mark the country’s 72nd Independence Day in Lamongan, East Java, Aug. 17, 2017.
Eko Widianto/BenarNews

Dozens of former terrorists mingled with hundreds of locals Thursday in the courtyard of Baitul Muttaqien Mosque in Tenggulun Village, East Java, to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of Indonesia’s independence.

Lingkar Perdamaian (Peace Circle), a foundation founded in November 2016 by Ali Fauzi Manzi and other former convicts, hosted the celebration that included a flag-raising ceremony.

Participants included 37 former terrorists and combatants, many of whom had been members Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), an al-Qaeda linked group blamed for the 2002 bombings in Bali that killed 202 people and injured hundreds more.

Yoyok Edi Sucahyo (alias Broyok) oversaw the ceremony. Once a favorite student of Abu Faris, a cleric from Tenggulun who is reportedly in Syria with the Islamic State (IS), Broyok admitted he was exposed to radicalism and terrorism.

“That’s my past, now it’s time to welcome the future,” he told BenarNews.

Zulia Mahendra and Khoerul Mustain served as flag raisers. Mahendra is the youngest son of Amrozi, who was executed in 2008 for his role in the 2002 Bali bombing, while Khoerul is the oldest son of Nor Minda who was convicted for providing bomb materials and storing weapons and ammunition.

“I am touched, an unforgettable experience,” Mahendra said after the ceremony.

Mahendra said he used to feel angry at police for executing his father and sought to learn how to build bombs. But after interacting with former terrorists, his desire for revenge waned.

Ali Fauzi – whose brothers Ali Imron, Ali Ghufron (alias Muklas) and Amrozi were the main perpetrators of the Bali bombing – read the Independence Proclamation as part of the ceremony.

Some of the former militants took an oath of loyalty to Indonesia as part of an effort to win trust from the local community prior to the flag-raising ceremony.

Ali Fauzi said he often receives threats from radical groups who want Indonesia to abandon its secular constitution and become an Islamic caliphate.

“Many are sending messages stating the pledge to Indonesia is fake,” he said.

‘The love of their homeland’

In the 1990s, JI leader Hambali – who is confined at Guantanamo prison camp in Cuba – sent Ali Fauzi to Mindanao, in the Philippines, to learn bomb making and to fight with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

But today, Ali Fauzi is totally reformed, he says.

The organization he founded, Lingkar Perdamaian, is dedicated to helping former terrorists like himself find peace and embrace pluralism. He encourages local businesses to employ them so they can support their families.

Lamongan Police Chief Juda Nusa Putra asked the community to accept the men who have changed their lives.

“They have shown and understood the love of their homeland. It’s a great, successful ceremony,” he said.

At Porong Prison in Sidoarjo, East Java, convict Umar Patek served as flag raiser at a similar ceremony.

“He was not forced, this is proof of Umar’s love of Indonesia,” prison chief Riyanto told BenarNews.

Umar Patek was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2012 for involvement in the Bali bombing as well as Christmas Eve attacks in 2000. Prior to his arrest in Abbotabad, Pakistan, in January 2011, he was listed as an international terrorist with the al-Qaeda network.

Sentence reductions

To mark Independence Day, the government reduced sentences of 92,816 inmates across the country, according to Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yasonna Laoly.

Of those, 35 were involved in terrorism, including Abu Bakar Bashir, the proclaimed spiritual leader of JI who is imprisoned in Sindur Mount Prison, in Bogor, West Java.

“Bashir received a three-month remission. This is the third year he has received the remission for the sentence running to 2024,” Yasonna told local media.

Aman Abdurrahman, the suspected mastermind of recent bombings in Jakarta, was due for release from Nusakambangan Prison in Central Java this Aug. 17, but was re-arrested instead.

Abdurrahman is thought to be the founder of IS-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), which carried out a terrorist attack that killed eight in central Jakarta in January 2016, and a twin suicide bombing near a bus station in East Jakarta in May 2017, according to police.

The United States government declared JAD a global terrorist group in January 2017.

“Aman was taken by Densus 88 on Sunday, before his letter of release was handed over. He was taken to Mobile Brigade Command Center at Kelapa Dua,” Ibnu Chuldun, an official with the central Java provincial government, told local media.

A prison official said Aman was arrested on charges related to a terror attack in the Thamrin area in Jakarta in January 2016 where four civilians and four suspects were killed.

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