Indonesia sentenced seven men linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on Tuesday, marking the first time the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country has sent anyone to prison for associations with the terror group.
Indonesia has been looking to crack down on ISIS since a bomb and gun attack in the capital Jakarta last month killed eight, including the four attackers themselves (See: “Islamic State Attack in Indonesia? A Look at the 2016 Jakarta Bombings”). The incident was the first ISIS attack in Southeast Asia and the first militant attack to hit Indonesia since twin hotel bombings in 2009 carried out by the Southeast Asian offshoot of Al-Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiyah.
On Tuesday, the West Jakarta District Court sentenced four men to between three and four years in prison for traveling to Syria to join ISIS, while two others received similar sentences for aiding them. The seventh received a five year sentence for spreading ISIS propaganda.
“What was proven was the defendants’ intent to conspire in, assist, and prepare terrorism-related activities,” the presiding judge Syahlan, who only goes by one name, said according to Reuters, adding that it was not necessary to prove they had actually carried out any attacks.
As I have written elsewhere, the notable first comes as the Indonesian government under Joko “Jokowi” Widodo toughens its counterterrorism approach following the Jakarta bombings (See: “Jakarta Attacks Jolt Indonesia to Toughen Its Counterterrorism Campaign”). That has included not only intensifying an ongoing crackdown against militants, but strengthening the legal tools for its security forces to handle suspected terrorists and sympathizers and boosting deradicalization programs (See: “Indonesia to Boost Deradicalization After Islamic State Attack”). Counter-terrorism officials had estimated that over 500 Indonesians have gone abroad to join the ISIS, with over 1,000 sympathizers at home.
It also comes amid warnings by some that more ISIS attacks may be likely in Indonesia in the coming months. As I noted for The Diplomat recently, a new report by the influential Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict released earlier this month found that competition among foreign and local ISIS-linked groups is likely to fuel future violence (See: “More ISIS Attacks in Indonesia Likely Amid Leadership Rivalry: New Report”).