Jakarta – Rights activist are calling the Indonesian government's decision to provide amnesty to former Aceh fugitive Din Minimi inappropriate, arguing that he was more the leader of a crime ring than a group with a specific political ideology.
The pardon, they warned, could lead to a wave of similar requests from criminals.
President Joko Widodo announced on Tuesday his decision to grant amnesty to Aceh's most wanted man, nearly a week after Din – alongside 30 group members – turned himself in to authorities following months of talks with intelligence officials.
State Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Sutiyoso had lodged the pardon request a mere day before, despite protests from the National Police who maintained the former rebel leader must face 14 criminal charges, ranging from murder to robbery.
"They are criminals, not rebels with political ideologies," said Al Araf of Jakarta-based human rights watchdog Imparsial. "They are different from GAM [Free Aceh Movement]."
Din's group is a splinter of the now-disbanded separatist group GAM. His gang has publicly criticized the Aceh government for their perceived indifference to the welfare of former GAM members, ever since the group signed a peace deal in 2005 with the state.
The pact saw GAM leadership transition into the local government via the Aceh Party. This shift to formal politics effectively ended the "political visions" of Din's faction, Al Araf said.
Hariz Azhar of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) echoed Imparsial, saying: "I have no idea why the government suddenly approached Din to grant him amnesty."
The government should first follow the necessary legal processes, Haris added. "This could set a bad precedent for other militant or armed groups to do the same," Al Araf warned.
Amnesty was one of six terms of surrender proposed by Din.