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Seventeen arrested in crackdown on secessionist movement

Jakarta Post - May 14, 2008

Yuli Tri Suwarni, Bandung – West Java Police announced Monday they had raided the separatist group Indonesian Islamic State (NII) in West Java and arrested 17 people on subversion charges. Chief Insp. Gen. Susno Duadji said those arrested were suspected of alleged involvement in subversion and blasphemy. He said they would likely face life imprisonment if found guilty.

They were among 35 people recently arrested by the police anti-terror unit in Cihanjuang, Cimahi and Ciwidey.

The underground movement has long been a police target because of its use of violence against its members and others in its fight for ideological and political causes. The group's members also use violence to collect alms and other funds for the NII.

"Most suspects held positions within the NII ranging from governor of the southern part of West Java, to regents, regency secretaries and district officials within the NII state," Susno said in Bandung, the provincial capital.

West Java Police have seized evidence including the NII's constitution, territorial ordinance, criminal code, independence proclamation text, bank accounts, structural organization and flag.

The 17 suspects are charged with intent to overthrow the government. They are also accused of hostility, fomenting hatred and tarnishing the image of the government and could face another seven years in prison if found guilty of those crimes.

They are also charged with blasphemy and practicing a faith not recognized by the state, which carries a maximum five-year prison term.

Susno said the NII operated a state within a state because they had proclaimed their independence. He said the evidence showed NII was divided into two territories, each regulated by an ordinance.

Susno said the so-called southwest Java province, whose leader was one of those arrested, was part of NII's western region, encompassing Java, West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggara. Based on the suspects' testimony, the eastern part of NII includes Kalimantan, Papua, Timor Leste and Malaysia.

"They have their own flag, which resembles the Indonesian flag, but with an added star and crescent. Members are recruited selectively and have to pledge allegiance to state secrecy and take a soldier's oath," Susno said.

He said accusations directed at the NII thus far have proven true. He said they recruited and indoctrinated people by claiming Indonesia did not recognize Islam. New members then go through a ritual to cleanse them of their sins and later become victims of extortion.

"They have a structural governance, a constitution, ministers, religious leaders, governors and officials all the way down to village level. They also have territories and proclaimed independence, but not international recognition," Susno said.

In 2002, West Java Police arrested some of the same suspects, but failed to prosecute them because of a lack of evidence.

The illegal movement is still running and involves many members who are believed to have perpetrated crimes, such as fraud and theft, to pay their dues to the NII. Susno declined to comment on whether the Al Zaytun Islamic boarding school in Indramayu was involved in the movement, based on testimonies and evidence seized by police. "We are still building the case," he said.