Diana Mariska, Jakarta – The government says it is trying to find a way to bring home 660 Indonesian foreign terrorist fighters now stranded in several overseas countries including Syria, Afghanistan and Turkey.
The Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Mahfud M.D. said his ministry has discussed the issue with other related ministries to find the safest and most efficient way to repatriate the fighters.
"The Social Affairs Ministry will have to calculate the social impacts when these fighters return home. The Justice and Human Rights Ministry has to decide their citizenship status. [Their return] could also affect tourism and investment since many people still consider them as terrorists," Mahfud said at his office in Jakarta on Tuesday.
"Some of these fighters have already asked to be repatriated. But their host countries want them to follow their regulations. Some of them will only let go of the orphans and others say they will let go of the women and children," Mahfud said.
The former Constitutional Court chief justice also said that according to Indonesia's 1945 Constitution, no one should ever be left "stateless," which means these fighters still retain their rights to return to Indonesia.
However, Mahfud admitted that many in Indonesia fear repatriating these fighters – some of whom have renounced their Indonesian citizenship – will spread a new "terrorist virus" in the country.
The minister said the government already has deradicalization programs in place to re-educate former terrorists and help them reintegrate with society.
"Deradicalization can be in the form of programs tailored for terrorist convicts or preventive programs to stop radicalization," Mahfud said on Jan. 10 after meeting the director-general of Japan's counterterrorism unit, Shigenobu Fukumoto.
The current deradicalization programs in Indonesia are provided by the Justice and Human Rights Ministry working together with the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) and the National Police's anti-terror unit, Densus 88.
Terrorist convicts pledge loyalty to republic
The head of the Justice and Human Rights Ministry's correctional department, Sri Puguh Budi Utami, said on Thursday that 48 terrorist convicts would soon pledge their loyalty to the Unitary Republic of Indonesia as part of the department's deradicalization program.
She said the convicts had been assessed by their specially-appointed guardians after going through the deradicalization program.
"The guardians say they've seen positive changes in the behavior of these terrorist convicts. Last year, a total of 117 terrorist convicts pledged their loyalty to Indonesia," Sri said at East Jakarta's Cipinang Prison, where many of these convicts are held.
Many terrorist convicts had renounced their citizenship because Indonesia is not a caliphate that implements sharia laws.
Indonesia's correctional institutions have also been providing skills training to help the terrorist convicts become economically independent once they are out of prison.
Justice and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly said the training and mentoring could be continued even after the terrorist convicts are released.
Sri said the public should avoid "stigmatizing" these terrorist convicts to help them reintegrate into society.