11/23/2007, 00.00
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Prison corruption undermining fight against Islamic terrorism

by Mathias Hariyadi
According to a report by the International Crisis Group, widespread corruption among staff in Indonesian prisons allows inmates associated with the Jemaah Islamiah to continue recruiting followers and run their affairs from behind bars. The NGO appeals to the government, urging it to undertake a large scale reform of the prison system.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Widespread corruption in Indonesian prisons is undermining the Indonesian government’s fight against Islamic terrorism. According to a recent report by the International Crisis Group (ICG), inmates connected with the Jemaah Islamiah, a group operating in South-East Asia thought to be linked to al-Qaeda, continue to run terrorist operations, fuel extremism and recruit followers behind bars.

For the ICG, Jakarta's main Cipinang prison is like a hotel where for the right price prisoners can upgrade their cells from standard to deluxe, VIP and even Super VIP.

ICG director Sidney Jones told AsiaNews that the practice was already known in the case of drug trafficking. Many drug lords can in fact run their business from their cells in maximum security prisons because in Indonesia money can buy anything. Corruption among prison staff is at the rot cause of the situation. In exchange for money some prisoners can get some privileges, Jones said.

For the ICG report, this is compromising the so-called ‘de-radicalisation’ programmes of terrorist cells that the government has pursued with some success.

Under such programmes former inmates are persuaded to abandon violence and act as agents to win their fellow group members over to more moderate positions.

One example has been the attempt to convince former terrorists that attacking civilian targets like Bali is both unjust and uncalled for by jihad.

Furthermore, many end up co-operating with police because in exchange for giving up violence the authorities provide their families with economic aid.

However, these programmes are compromised when prison guards and administrators are corrupt. Among inmates bribery confirms the widespread view that government officials are anti-Islamic and must therefore be fought.

For Ms Jones this is worrisome trend. In her ICG report she urges the authorities to better train prison staff and allocate funds to fight corruption, particularly in the capital, Surabaya, Medan, Bandung, Semarang, Bali and Makassar.

Lastly, the ICG warns the government that it must undertake a broad reform of the prison system without which the fight against fundamentalism can only have partial results.

Currently in Indonesia, some 170 people are in prison on charges related to Islamic terrorism, less than half members of Jemaah Islamiah.

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