Tue, Feb 27, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Militants to apologize to victims of Indonesia attacks


An Australian police officer stands near the ruins of the Sari Club, background, which was flattened by a bomb attack in Kuta, Bali, Indonesia, on Oct. 21, 2001.

Photo: AP

The Indonesian government is bringing together dozens of convicted Muslim militants and survivors of attacks in what it hopes will be an important step in combating radicalism and fostering reconciliation.

About 120 reformed militants are to apologize to dozens of victims, including survivors of the 2002 Bali bombings and the 2004 bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta, said Irfan Idris, director of de-radicalization at Indonesia’s counterterrorism agency.

The three days of meetings at a Jakarta hotel that began yesterday are not open to the media except for an event on the final day.

“Many militant convicts have changed and are taking the right course with us by drawing on their experience to prevent others from taking up violence,” Idris said. “These facts have inspired us to reconcile them with their victims.”

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation and third-biggest democracy, has imprisoned hundreds of militants in the years since the Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people, mostly foreigners.

However, its efforts at convincing imprisoned militants to renounce violence have had mixed results. In overcrowded and understaffed prisons, extremists have been able to convert other prisoners to radicalism and communicate with supporters on the outside to encourage new attacks that they believe will advance their cause of transforming Indonesia into an Islamic state.

At least 18 former militant prisoners have been involved in attacks in Indonesia since 2010, including a January 2016 suicide bombing and gun attack in downtown Jakarta that killed eight people, including the attackers.

Febby Firmansyah Isran, who suffered burns to 45 percent of his body from the 2003 bombing of the JW Marriot hotel in Jakarta, said at first he was so overwhelmed with anger that his health worsened.

At the urging of his fiance, now his wife, Isran, who is attending the meetings, said he accepted what happened to him as an act of God.

“I have forgiven them and it has even improved my recovery process and calmed me down,” said Isran, who founded a support group for bombing victims, which now has 570 members, about 60 of whom suffer from total physical disability.

However, many victims have refused to participate in the government event, because they cannot forgive the attackers or are still traumatized and are afraid to meet with convicted radicals, he said.

“We cannot force the victims to come as there are also some militants who are not willing to come,” Isran said.

Idris said families of those killed in attacks endure psychological scars and economic hardship, and survivors are often left with debilitating physical disabilities.

The event aims to encourage support for militants who reject violence and try to become part of mainstream society after being released from prison, Idris said.

After release, they are often ostracized, unable to find work and their children are stigmatized, which contribute to some of them returning to their radical networks, he said.

Masykur Abdul Kadir, who in 2003 was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his involvement in the Bali bombing, said he believed the event would have an impact on both sides.

“We can hear their suffering and see directly the impact of what we did in the past to the innocent people,” said Masykur, who was known as “local boy” in the Bali bombing for his role in reconnaissance and guiding militants who came to Bali from other parts of Indonesia.

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