Asia

Jakarta attacks: President Widodo seeks terror laws review

Indonesian police officers stand guard at the site of the 14 January terrorist attack in Jakarta Image copyright EPA
Image caption Indonesian officers guard site of last week's deadly attacks in Jakarta

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo has called for revisions to the country's anti-terrorism laws after last week's attacks in the capital, Jakarta.

The proposed changes would make it easier for officials to arrest anyone suspected of planning an attack.

Authorities are said to fear that returning jihadis could launch more attacks in Indonesia.

But critics have said that the new laws could be used as a tool of repression.

The proposed new legislation would also allow officials to hold suspects for longer than a week without charge and would make it illegal for Indonesians to fight with militants of the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq.

Officials believe that roughly 500 Indonesians have travelled to the Middle East to join IS, Reuters news agency reports. About 100 are believed to have returned to the country, most of whom apparently did not see front line combat.

The law changes are likely to be approved in parliament as all major parties have expressed support for the proposals.

"This is very pressing. Many people have left for Syria or returned," Mr Widodo was quoted by Reuters as saying, without specifying when a decision would be made.

The call for review comes in the wake of last week's attacks in Jakarta, which were claimed by IS, and left eight people dead, including four civilians.

It was Indonesia's worst attack since 2009. Its suspected mastermind, Indonesian national Bahrun Naim, is currently thought to be in Syria with IS.

At a press conference in the Indonesian city of Solo, his family confirmed that it was his voice in an audio message released online on Monday.

They urged the authorities to "show mercy" to him.

Fears of repression

The review of Indonesia's anti-terror laws has faced opposition from some political parties, human rights organisations and more radical Islamic groups.

There is particular concern over the situation in Papua province, where the government is fighting a low-level separatist movement.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Indonesians expressed solidarity after last week's attacks with the campaign "We Are Not Afraid"
Image copyright AP
Image caption After the attack, Indonesia's president said that there was "no place for terrorism on Earth"

Critics also say the changes would be a step back to the sweeping powers which the police had under the dictatorship of General Suharto.

Mr Suharto ruled Indonesia for 32 years under a brutal regime that persecuted dissenters and silenced the opposition.

The country's Vice President, Jusuf Kalla, said that there was no urgent need to revise the law, and he was supported by the speaker of the upper house, Zulkifli Hasan, from the Islamic party PAN.

But another Islamic party, the PKS, said it would support the revisions as long as there were checks and balances.

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