Indonesian boarding school linked to Daesh gets a reprieve

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Ibnu Mas’ud, a ‘pesantren,’ or Islamic boarding school, near Bogor city 70 km south of Jakarta.
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Agus Purwoko, head of Al-Uruwatul Usro Foundation. (AN photo by Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata)
Updated 20 September 2017
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Indonesian boarding school linked to Daesh gets a reprieve

BOGOR, Indonesia: A boarding school in Indonesia accused of being a breeding ground for Daesh terrorists has been reprieved from closure provided it complies with government regulations and registers with the Religious Affairs Ministry.
Ibnu Mas’ud, a “pesantren,” or Islamic boarding school, near Bogor city 70 km south of Jakarta, had been ordered to close by last Sunday, and nearly 100 people protested outside the school on Monday, demanding that it close its doors.
However, after a meeting with local authorities of Bogor district administration in West Java province, on Monday, the school owner, Agus Purwoko, head of Al-Uruwatul Usro Foundation, told Arab News he would make every effort to comply with government regulations.
The authorities told Purwoko in the meeting, Monday, to officially close the school and properly apply for permits, registering the school with Religious Affairs Ministry, before he can open it again.
“I was told to apply for a school permit to the district administration and register it with the Religious Affairs Ministry,” Purwoko said. His initial intent was not to establish a formal education institution but a place for social service, to provide shelter to underprivileged children, and teach them Islamic values and how to read the Qu’ran, he said.
The closure order followed an incident last month when a student caretaker, Mohammed Supriyadi, 17, burned red and white bunting used as street decoration for Indonesia’s Independence Day celebration on Aug. 17. Police accused Supriyadi of destroying the national flag, although Purwoko said the boy was mentally challenged.
Andi Menir, the local neighborhood chief, said the incident had stirred anger among local people, who considered Supriyadi’s action anti-Indonesia. “We also don’t like that our village is labeled as a terrorist village,” he told Arab News.
Purwoko had expected protests on Sunday, and by last Friday he had sent home 260 of the school’s students, mostly under 16, and ceased operations.
Rakyan Adibrata, a board member of the Certified Counter Terrorism Practitioner program, told Arab News it would be better if the government handed the school over to be managed by moderate Muslim groups.
“Otherwise, it would trigger more hatred from the radical community, who already regard the government as apostate and would use it to justify more terrorist attacks,” he said.
Ade Bhakti, executive director of the Centre for Radicalism and De-radicalization Studies in Jakarta, said their research suggested that two people with direct links to this school had gone to Syria to fight with Daesh. A former caretaker at the school, Munawar, was in Syria, from where he helped to arrange for Indonesian militants to go to the southern Philippines in 2015 and 2016 to join Abu Sayyaf for paramilitary training. Three staff members and a teenage student from the school were also stopped by Singapore authorities last February last year when they tried to leave for Syria, and were deported back to Indonesia.
Purwoko denied that his school was a breeding ground for Islamist militants. He said he never felt it necessary to check the children’s backgrounds, as he only wanted to provide them with a place where they could feel safe and welcome. He also denied any association with Aman Abdurrahman, a terrorist linked with the fatal January 2016 attack in central Jakarta.
Alghiffari Aqsa, a lawyer from the Legal Aid Foundation, a group in Jakarta that supports the pesantren, said any terrorist linked to the school should be treated as an individual case, instead of blaming the entire school.
“Don’t mix an individual terrorist conviction with the school as an institution,” said Usman Hamid, the director of Amnesty International Indonesia, who also supports the school.


Indonesia jails former parliament speaker for 15 years over graft

Updated 43 min 47 sec ago
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Indonesia jails former parliament speaker for 15 years over graft

JAKARTA: An Indonesian court on Tuesday sentenced the former speaker of parliament, Setya Novanto, to 15 years in jail for his role in causing state losses of around $170 million, linked to a national electronic identity card scheme.
The case has shocked Indonesians, already used to large corruption scandals and has reinforced a widely held perception that their parliament, long regarded as riddled with corruption, is a failing institution.
“The defendant is found guilty of conspiring to commit corruption and is sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined 500 million rupiah,” Yanto, the head of a panel of five judges, told the Jakarta court. The fine is equivalent to $36,000.
Novanto would be barred from holding public office for five years after serving his sentence and have to repay $7.3 million he was accused of plundering, added the judge, who goes by one name.
In a session that ran for more than three hours, judges read out dozens of case notes, including descriptions of where the former speaker held meetings to divvy up cash made from a mark-up on a contract for the identity card.
Novanto showed little emotion as the judge read the verdict.
After a quick consultation with his legal team, he told the court he would take some time to consider whether to appeal the sentence.
Novanto is accused of orchestrating a scheme to steal $173 million, or almost 40 percent of the entire budget for a government contract for the national identity card.
Prosecutors, who had questioned 80 witnesses in the case, had sought a jail term of at least 16 years for the former speaker.
Novanto, who had been implicated in five graft scandals since the 1990s but never convicted, was detained by investigators last November after repeatedly missing summonses for questioning over the case, saying he needed heart surgery.
Indonesians have to contend with high levels of graft in many areas of their lives and the country placed 96th among 180 countries in Transparency International’s annual corruption perceptions index last year, on par with Colombia and Thailand.