World Bulletin / News Desk
The chief of the National Counter extremism Agency said Tuesday that around 500 Indonesians had traveled to Syria, and expressed concern that upon returning they could cause “trouble” over the next six years.
"Indonesia could be like Syria without a proper extremism law," Suhardi Alius was quoted as saying by metrotvnews.com.
The government and parliament of Indonesia have been debating proposed amendments to the country’s anti-extrem laws, which have been criticized for deemed weaknesses in detaining and prosecuting suspects.
The changes -- which are currently awaiting parliamentary approval -- are expected to strengthen the Special Forces counter-extremism squad's authority in the process of arrest, detention and de-radicalization.
They were proposed following Jan. 14 attacks in Jakarta that left eight people dead -- four of them ISIL-affiliated assailants.
The deputy chief of the national police's Intelligence and Security Agency revealed Tuesday that police data showed that around 1,242 Indonesian citizens have become “ISIL sympathizers”.
Of them, 384 are reportedly still in Syria, while 54 died there and 47 have returned. Indonesian authorities captured another 75 nationals accused of planning to travel to the war-torn country.
Insp. Gen. Lutfi Lubihanto also called for amendments to anti-extrem legislation, stressing that the spread of radicalism “has evolved through social media and targeting young people”.
"Efforts to enforce the law against them [ISIL sympathizers] is still constrained by weak regulation so that prevention cannot be done optimally," he was quoted as saying by detik.com.
"There were 1,242 ISIS sympathizers recorded,” he added, using an alternative acronym for the extrem group. “We classify them into core groups and sympathizers."
Indonesia has been on alert against extremist activities over the past year, further heightening security measures after the January attacks in the capital.
While the country has been under pressure to toughen anti-extremism legislation and supervision of “radicalized” inmates, it has also drawn criticism from rights groups for not sufficiently protecting the rights of suspects.
In a statement released in March, human rights watchdog International Commission of Jurists raised concerns about amendments to Indonesia's anti-extrem laws, saying they would "authorize unnecessarily prolonged detention of suspects, putting them at risk of torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearance, and arbitrary detention".