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Aceh's most-wanted criminal ineligible for amnesty, say expert

Jakarta Post - January 8, 2016

Hotli Simanjuntak, Banda Aceh – The government must rule out an option of granting amnesty to former Free Aceh Movement (GAM) combatant Din Minimi and his fellow insurgents as such a move could create legal uncertainty and inspire an upsurge of terrorist activities, a public discussion in Banda Aceh concluded on Thursday.

Despite Din's recent surrender to the government, offering clemency to the combatant and his group members could undermine the country's legal system in the future because their history of taking up arms was categorized as a crime, said the military's Strategic Intelligence Agency (BAIS) former chief Soleman Ponto.

"Amnesty given to former GAM combatants who previously took up arms on political grounds was very different from the case of Din Minimi, who has been categorized as a criminal," Soleman said.

According to Soleman, it was agreed in a peace agreement in Helsinki, Finland, that GAM members would be given amnesty as part of the deal after surrendering their arms. The agreement, which was signed by the now-defunct GAM and the Indonesian government in 2005, did not mention that those who returned as rebels would still be ineligible for clemency.

"It is already clear which parties have taken up arms for political reasons and those who use guns for other reasons," said Soleman, who also previously served as an Indonesian representative for the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM).

Aceh finally saw the end of a three-decade separatist conflict that had killed 15,000 people after GAM and Indonesian leaders agreed to sign the Helsinki peace accord.

Din's group has often been linked to armed violence in Aceh, In March last year, two military officers were found dead in Alue Mbang village, Nisam Antara subdistrict, North Aceh. The two officers, Indra and Hendri, were abducted while gathering intelligence on the armed group led by Din.

Last month, Din finally surrendered after three years on the run. The combatant and his 30 followers turned themselves in, witnessed by National Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Sutiyoso.

Din claimed he had decided to surrender because President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo had guaranteed that the government would listen to his demands, including a request for amnesty.

Banda Aceh-based Syiah Kuala University legal expert Syaifuddin Bantasyam said clemency for Din would inspire others to carry out similar actions to those committed by the former combatant.

"Despite Aceh's background of conflict, it doesn't mean criminal acts can be regarded as political actions that should be given amnesty," he said.

Din was born Nurdin bin Ismail Amat in Keude Buloh village, Julok, East Aceh, 38 years ago. His father, Abu Minimi, was a prominent GAM fighter who was killed in late 1990s.

Din's supporters have portrayed him as a Robin Hood figure who abducted corruptors and drug dealers and used the ransom money to assist orphans and widows neglected by GAM leaders who are now in power.

Din shot to fame in 2014 when he opened links with journalists, delivering a consistent message that the GAM-led Aceh government had failed to fulfill its promises to former combatants.

Earlier this week, Jokowi said legal moves would still take place despite Din's amnesty request being approved. "We will grant the clemency for sure, but we will also consider our legal system," Jokowi said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2016/01/08/aceh-s-most-wanted-criminal-ineligible-amnesty-say-expert.html