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Militant Sentenced for Harboring Top Terrorist Leader in Indonesia

  • Nancy-Amelia Collins

An Indonesian militant has received a life sentence for harboring a top terrorist, and another man was sentenced to six years in jail for his links with terrorists.

An Indonesian court sentenced Subur Sugiarto to life in prison Wednesday for harboring one of Southeast Asia's most wanted fugitives, Noordin Top.

Noordin, a Malaysian thought to be a leader of the regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, is accused of masterminding a series of attacks in Indonesia over the past several years that have killed hundreds of people.

The Semarang district court in Central Java also on Wednesday sentenced Ardi Wibowo to six years in jail for helping Noordin and other militants.

Judges found Ardi guilty of "acting as a liaison" between Noordin and militants from Jemaah Islamiyah, which is linked to the al Qaida terror network.

Indonesia has arrested and convicted more than 300 JI members since 2002.

While several have been given lengthy sentences, including two given the death penalty for the part they played in the 2002 Bali bombing, many have been given light jail terms.

Critics say that while Indonesia has worked hard to fight terrorism by following the rule of law, the tradition of shortening sentences by granting holiday remissions allows many militants to get out of jail early.

Ken Conboy, a security expert and author of a book on JI, says all too often militants end up serving less than half their sentences.

"The problem is they often get light sentences and then even if they get like five years, they end up getting out after one or two," he said. "On the books it looks great. Yes, they process these people and they actually prosecute but the laws on the books don't seem to be enough to deter people."

Conboy says a concern now is many of those being released have only become more radical while in jail.

"Okay so they go into jail for a couple of years," he said. "They're already used to hardship, that's hardly more of a hardship. They come out and then they've almost like been martyred and then they get more street cred [credibility]. It's been a concern a lot of these guys just aren't getting stiff enough sentences that are really deterrents."

The Indonesian authorities have intensified their search for Noordin since the death of his associate, Azahari bin Husin, thought to have been one of JI's top bomb makers. Azahari blew himself up when police raided his hideout in Central Java in November last year.

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