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Indonesia Passes Emergency Anti-Terrorism Measures - 2002-10-18


The Indonesian government late Friday passed two emergency anti-terrorism decrees that allow it to more easily pursue alleged militants. The measures, signed by President Megawati Sukarnoputri, comes nearly a week after a bomb blast on the Indonesian resort island of Bali killed more than 180 people and devastated a crowded tourist district. The signing of the two emergency decrees followed eight hours of deliberation by the cabinet. Both measures are designed to make it easier for authorities to arrest suspected militants.

The first deals with ways to counter terrorism. It allows authorities to extend the death penalty to those convicted of terrorism. It also allows officials to detain people for three to seven days on suspicion of committing terrorist acts. The second decree allows authorities to apply the new anti-terrorism measures retroactively for use in the case of the Bali bombing. More than 180 people died and hundreds were wounded when bombs tore apart two nightclubs in a crowded tourist district in Bali last Saturday. Officials call it the worst terrorist act in Indonesian history. The new emergency decrees supercede anti-terrorism legislation that parliament has debated for weeks. Before the Bali bombing, lawmakers were concerned that the new legislation would give security forces too broad a mandate to fight terror, resulting in possible arbitrary arrests. Many regional governments and the United States have urged the Indonesian government to arrest an Indonesian cleric, 64-year-old Abu Bakar Bashir, who they say is the alleged leader of Jemaah Islamiah, a group those governments believe has links to al-Qaida. Mr. Bashir has consistently denied those links. He also denies he had anything to do with the bombing in Bali. Indonesian authorities had called Mr. Bashir in for questioning on Saturday as a suspect in the investigation into a series of bombings that took place across Indonesia on Christmas Eve in 2000. But Mr. Bashir was admitted into a hospital on Friday complaining of respiratory difficulties. He is not expected to be released in time to answer the police summons on Saturday.

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