Government’s banning of main pro-Islamic State group will reduce jihadist threat over coming years
South Jakarta District Court issued a ruling on 31 July outlawing the pro-IS Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) group for its involvement in attacks in Indonesia. As a result of this order, which will apply nationwide, security forces and police can now arrest and prosecute members of JAD. The court also ruled that any groups affiliated to IS are also outlawed, although no other organisations were identified by name. The court’s ability to take this step follows Parliamentâ€™s approval of a new anti-terror law on 25 May, in response to IS-inspired attacks in Surabaya on 13-14 May. One of the key weaknesses of the prior anti-terror legislation was that it did not allow security forces to take pre-emptive action against individuals with known links to extremist groups.
The court’s ban of JAD â€“ the most significant pro-jihadist organisation in the country – under the terms of the new law will significantly strengthen the security forces’ ability to pursue pro-jihadist individuals. As well as making it easier for security forces to arrest those directly involved in planning attacks, this will also give security forces greater scope to arrest pro-jihadist propagandists and providers of logistical support. Indeed, one of the JAD members called to testify during the court’s case against the group was its second most senior leader, Zainal Anshori, who is serving a prison sentence for smuggling arms into Indonesia, an activity which security forces will now have greater powers to disrupt.
Significantly the ruling will also allow the police to freeze bank accounts and seize property belonging to anyone convicted of involvement with the group, which will further limit jihadists’ ability to organise, and deter sympathisers from supporting the group. The wide nature of the court’s decision, which applies to all pro-IS groups, also means that even if JAD dissolves and new groups arise to take its place, the security forces will be able to rely on the 31 July judgment to maintain their crackdown without the need for further judicial intervention. This is important as it will not only allow the authorities to crack down against any current JAD-linked cells, but also prevent others from forming over the longer term.
JAD is however a loose grouping of sympathisers, rather than a coherent organisation. Many jihadist sympathisers have also little or no contact with JAD and are radicalised online by individuals outside Indonesia. Moreover, the ban does not cover the Islamic
Defenders Front (FPI), a prominent hardline Islamist group that is highly likely to seek to increase religious tensions ahead of next year’s elections in order to benefit its preferred candidates. This means that the ban will not eliminate the risk of isolated, unsophisticated strikes by individuals radicalised online or by groups such as the FPI.
That said, the court’s move will lead to a clear net improvement in security. As a result, even though jihadists’ intent to strike may rise during upcoming high-profile events, such as when Jakarta hosts the Asian Games from 18 August, the jihadist threat will gradually decline over the next year, even allowing for increased religious tensions ahead of the 2019 general elections. This will also reduce the risk to other jihadist targets, including Shia during the upcoming holy month of Muharram, due to begin on 12 September, as well as to the Christian-Chinese minority, particularly during the Christmas period later this year.