January 11, 2013
Maluku residents have welcomed the recapture of a top terror suspect after a month on the lam and are urging security officials to ensure it doesn't happen again.
''We appreciate the arrest. But we remind law enforcement agencies – both prison and police officers – to not lose prisoners again, especially terrorist prisoners. This is very dangerous,'' Yeheskel Wessy, head of the Ambon Branch of the Indonesian National Student Movement, told Khabar Southeast Asia.
Basri Manuputty, aka Barto, 25, is believed to have been the mastermind and main actor in terror acts in Ambon following an outbreak of communal violence on September 11th, 2011 in which eight people were killed, scores injured and hundreds of homes destroyed.
In following days, homemade devices exploded on a roadside and at a bus terminal. Another was found outside a church. Fortunately, no one was injured. Investigators said the devices were very similar, likely made by a single person trying to wreak revenge for the sectarian strife.
Basri fled Ambon to Seram Island and West Papua before being captured by police in Jakarta on May 17th, 2012. Based on information obtained from Basri, police were able to arrest more suspects in the bombings.
Basri had attended two sessions of his trial at Ambon District Court when he escaped on November 6th from a prison in Waiheru, Maluku, together with a cell mate, Hambakaly Salampessy. The two fled after breaking a bathroom window.
Local police recaptured Basri while investigating the theft of two motorcycles in Masohi City on Seram Island. The theft report led them to a small boarding house on Talang Street, Namaelo, Masohi, where they found the fugitive holed up on December 9th.
"Barto was the most wanted terrorist in Ambon. Besides Barto, we also secured the two stolen motorcycles," the head of the local police in Maluku, Assistant Commissioner Udi Juswanto told the press after the arrest.
"After the investigation in Masohi City, we will move him to Indonesian police in Ambon, Maluku for further investigation," Udi added.
The head of the regional office of Justice and Human Rights, Julaisman Purba, has questioned nine prison officials who were on duty when Basri escaped in early November. Julaisman claimed to have checked each officer including the chief of the jail. He also proposed to the Directorate General of Corrections that they be given strict punishment for not doing their duty.
''Sanctions will depend on their infringement. The sanction can be mild, moderate, or severe. A mild sanction can be an administrative one; someone can be transferred to perform another task, while a heavy sanction can be a removal of office. They must be prepared to accept the consequences," Purba explained.
Purba said he is still awaiting a decision.
Yeheskel, the student leader, warned of the potential impact on society caused by an escaped terrorist such as Basri.
"If somebody like Basri is also involved with many other terrorist prisoners, the impact on society can be enormous," he said.
Samuel Mataheru, a 38-year-old living in Ambon City, said both local and national government need to beef up security.
"Ambon is still considered a conflict-prone area, not only religious conflict but also terrorism. Therefore, active involvement by both the government and local Ambonese will be required to combat possible conflicts," he told Khabar.
"Most Ambonese are quite religious. I think to increase tolerance among Ambonese, it is important to educate the young generation with a good example of harmony in a diverse society," he said.