WRITE for ATol ADVERTISE MEDIA KIT GET ATol BY EMAIL ABOUT ATol CONTACT US
Asia Time Online - Daily News
             
Asia Times Chinese
AT Chinese



    Southeast Asia
     Jul 8, 2011


Osama ally stuck in legal limbo
By Jacob Zenn

JAKARTA - Osama bin Laden confidante and Indonesian terror suspect Umar Patek remains in Guantanamo-like legal limbo in Pakistan since his arrest in Abbottabad in late January, amid concerns that he would not be successfully prosecuted in Indonesia.

Patek, an alleged explosives expert with the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terror group, was one of Indonesia's most wanted terror suspects before his capture by Pakistani forces in the same town where United States commandos killed bin Laden in a raid on the al-Qaeda founder's hideout. Patek stands accused of being involved in the 2002 Bali bombing, in which more than 200 people, mostly foreign tourists, were killed. Until his capture six months ago, Patek was one of the few suspected JI masterminds of those

 
attacks still at large.

Pakistan has been pressured to stall the return of Patek to Indonesia despite having offered Jakarta the first opportunity to try him. Top Indonesian officials have expressed doubts that local courts would be able to prosecute him if tried at home and that his radical supporters could stir unrest and exploit the trial as a propaganda vehicle.

Pakistan has given Indonesian officials access to interrogate Patek. During Pakistan's own interrogations, Patek reportedly confessed to involvement in the Bali bombing and supplied information related to planned terrorism plots in Australia and other countries. Although the United States' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) provided intelligence that led to Patek's arrest in Pakistan, American officials have not sought to interrogate him.

Pakistan does not share an extradition treaty with Indonesia, so Islamabad is not legally bound to hand Patek over to authorities in his home country. Apart from Indonesia, the US, Australia, the Philippines or Pakistan are all possible venues for his eventual trial.

The US and Australia can claim the right to try Patek because many of their citizens died in the 2002 Bali bombings in 2002. (Nearly half of the victims were Australian nationals and seven were Americans.) The Philippines could potentially try him over allegations he set up terrorist camps in Mindanao, the war-torn southern island where militant recruits were supposedly trained in explosives and organized several bombings in the country.

In Pakistan, Patek faces charges ranging from the illegal possession of weapons to resisting arrest to carrying a forged passport. The monitored movements of Patek and his facilitators helped lead US investigators to Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad.

Certain Indonesian officials have said that trying Patek at home could cause more problems than it would solve. Chairul Akbar, the first secretary of the National Anti-Terrorism Agency, has said he does not want to try Patek in Indonesia because a trial will provide ammunition for radical Islamic groups that sympathize with JI.

While Indonesia has notched many counter-terrorism successes, the terrorist threat is still clear and present. Earlier this week authorities arrested seven terror suspects on charges of smuggling weapons into the country from the Philippines through Malaysia.

Last month, police arrested 16 terror suspects behind an alleged plot to poison police personnel with cyanide by sabotaging water bottles at station canteens. Recent anonymous bombings, including one at a church on the outskirts of Jakarta, have been attributed to Islamic militant groups.

Even if Indonesia has the will to prosecute Patek, substantial legal hurdles must be jumped. The head of Indonesia's National Anti-Terrorism Agency, Ansyaad Mbai, has expressed doubts whether Patek can be convicted in Indonesia because the country's Anti-Terror Law of 2003 cannot be applied retrospectively for Patek's alleged role in the 2002 Bali bombings.

Partial justice
To be sure, Indonesia has a mixed record in prosecuting terror suspects. In November 2008, Indonesian police carried out death sentences on three convicted Bali bombers by strapping them to poles and shooting them in the heart. Despite fears of reprisal attacks and rallies by supporters of the bombers in their hometowns, there was no violence in the aftermath of the executions.

Other verdicts have been less resounding. An Indonesian court convicted Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir for conspiracy in connection with 2002 Bali bombings but sentenced him to a lenient 30 months in prison minus 10 months for time served during the trial. In April 2003 he was also charged with immigration violations and served 18 months in prison, but was found innocent of the more serious charge of treason. The US and Australia expressed disappointment at the verdicts, decisions that have no doubt influenced their stand on Patek's extradition.

More recently, however, Bashir was found guilty and received a harsh sentence for sponsoring a terrorist cell in Aceh province that was allegedly planning Mumbai-style attacks with suicide squads targeting Westerners, embassies and political leaders, including president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Militants arrested in the raid on the camp testified that they were given military and weapons training and that Bashir had raised more than US$100,000 for guns, ammunition and equipment.

The 15-year sentence handed down in June was shorter than the life sentence prosecutors sought, though it is tantamount to a death sentence for the 72-year-old Bashir. Unlike the previous trials that left victim nations disappointed, there were no complaints from the US or Australia. Bashir's prosecution has helped to restore a measure of international confidence in Indonesia's ability to bring terrorists to justice, though clearly has not resolved the stalemate over whether Patek should be extradited to Indonesia.

A series of book bombs contained in parcels mailed to liberal Muslim leaders during the final stages of Bashir's trial in March this year was not conclusively connected to his case. However, the attacks - which were the first letter bombs sent in Indonesia - showed the potential for home-grown extremists to diversify their methods and retaliate in defense of their comrades.

If Patek were put on trial in Jakarta, hundreds of his supporters from different radical organizations would be expected to swarm outside of the proceedings to put pressure on judges - as they did during Bashir's recent trial, when ahead of the verdict more than 3,000 soldiers, including snipers, were deployed to the courtroom and its surrounding areas.

The underlying legal issue on Patek's case is that he will not be subject to the same Anti-Terror Law of 2003 that was used to convict and execute the three Bali bombers. Masykur Abdul Kadir, who was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment by the Denpasar District Court in Bali for assisting them, challenged in July 2004 the constitutionality of a retrospective clause in the Anti-Terror Law.

By a five to four majority, the Constitutional Court held that the clause, which was introduced to allow acts related to the 2002 Bali bombings to be tried under the Anti-Terror Law of 2003, was unconstitutional. The three bombers' convictions stood because the court in 2004 found that its ruling did not apply to their conviction in 2003, but that it would in related cases brought in future - potentially including Patek's.

That means that Indonesian prosecutors and investigators would not be able to take advantage of the greatly expanded evidentiary powers, including evidence acquired by wiretapping and other communication intercepts allowed for in the Anti-Terror Law 2003, against Patek. Given those legal weaknesses and US and Australian concerns, Patek is expected to remain in legal limbo in Pakistan and outside of Indonesia's courts for the foreseeable future.

Jacob Zenn graduated from Georgetown Law as a Global Law Scholar in 2011 and is currently based in Indonesia. He can be contacted at jacobzenn@gmail.com.

(Copyright 2011 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)


Philippines: End of a terror era
(Jun 3, '11)

Bali bomber may have been vital link
(May 4, '11)


1.
The House of Saud paranoia

2. Petraeus burnishes Afghan legacy

3. Shahzad's killing echoes in Washington

4. Hu colossus strides across the strait

5. Syrian regime on the brink

6. A royal call for calm in Malaysia

7. China's elite enjoys untainted fruits

8. DSK and the death of the novel

9. US, Pakistan top brass fire risky salvos

10. North Korean girls escape to slavery

(24 hours to 11:59pm ET, Jul 6, 2011)

asia dive site

Asia Dive Site
 
 



All material on this website is copyright and may not be republished in any form without written permission.
Copyright 1999 - 2011 Asia Times Online (Holdings), Ltd.
Head Office: Unit B, 16/F, Li Dong Building, No. 9 Li Yuen Street East, Central, Hong Kong
Thailand Bureau: 11/13 Petchkasem Road, Hua Hin, Prachuab Kirikhan, Thailand 77110