Authorities in Brunei Darussalam are holding a suspected Indonesian member of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) for up to two years under the sultanate's Internal Security Act (ISA).
They accuse 44-year-old Awaluddin Sitorus (also known as Ustaz Yasin, Abu Yasar, Dani and Daniardanalin) of running an herb business in Brunei that fronted creation of a JI haven and financial hub there.
In February, the nation's Internal Security Department (ISD) announced it assessed these activities "as having the potential for a greater plan for future entry and [subsequent settlement] in Brunei" of "members or ex-members of the terrorist group".
Such a plan "would thus lead to the creation of a 'safe haven' within Brunei Darussalam as well as a finance generating hub for terrorist groups outside of the country", according to an ISD statement published February 26th by state-run Radio Television Brunei.
Awaluddin also communicated with the leader of Kumpulan Mujahidin Indonesia (KMI), another terrorist group, and helped a "suspicious individual" enter Brunei early last year, the statement noted.
Awaluddin received military training in Afghanistan in the 1990s, and Indonesian authorities arrested him on suspicion of being involved in bomb plots in Medan in May 2000, the Bruneian statement alleged.
According to a December 2011 article in the Brunei Times, Awaluddin studied medicine in Pakistan. He practiced traditional Islamic healing methods known as bekam, which consist of extracting "dirty" blood from a patient's body while reciting verses from the Qur'an.
He moved to Selangor, Malaysia, in 1997 and started his business in Brunei in 2009.
The ISD placed Awaluddin in custody on February 21st under Section 3(1)(a) of the ISA, which allows a person deemed a national security threat to be held for two years without a warrant, trial or charges brought against him, according to researcher Joel Ng, an expert on Bruneian laws.
Awaluddin's detention evokes the case of another suspected JI member, Masyhadi Mas Selamat, whom Singapore locked up for two years in November under its own ISA.
"We have been maintaining communications with the Bruneian authorities," Andri Djufri Said, a consular official at the Indonesian embassy in Bandar Seri Begawan, told Khabar Southeast Asia by phone, referring to Awaluddin's arrest.
However, Brunei has not granted embassy access to the suspect, Andri said.
Ties to Medan bombings
Indonesian National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) chief Ansyaad Mbai confirmed Awaluddin's alleged links to a series of bomb plots in Medan nearly 14 years ago.
Awaluddin had been accused of assisting Hambali, Imam Samudra, and Faiz bin Abubakar Bafana in plotting to bomb three churches in the North Sumatran city. One bomb blew up and injured 33 people, but bombs planted in the Catholic Church Kristus Raja and the Batak Protestant Church were defused.
Awaluddin was arrested in 2003 in Bandar Lampung, Sumatra. He stood trial on terrorism charges but was acquitted in June 2004, because of lack of evidence and the fact that his alleged co-conspirators were at-large.
"As a free man, he had the freedom to move just like any other citizen, until he was detained in Brunei," Ansyaad told Khabar.