The Surabaya Pentecostal Church's front yard and remainders of the gate's canopy after the bomb attack on 13 May in which five people died. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)
The 13 May bomb attack on Surabaya Pentecostal Church killed five people. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

Indonesia’s government has approved a new anti-terrorism law that gives police more freedom to carry out preventative arrests and detain terrorist suspects for longer, as reported by AsiaNews.

The proposed changes, which had been under discussion for two years, were approved by parliament on Friday, 25 May, just ten days after the suicide bombings of three churches in Surabaya, the capital of East Java province, killed 18 people, including the six bombers.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks, believed to have been orchestrated by Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), an Indonesian militant group formed in 2015 and affiliated to IS. JAD’s leader, Aman Abdurrahman, is currently standing trial for allegedly masterminding a series of bombings, including the November 2016 bombing of a church playground that killed one child and left several others with life-changing injuries.

Under the new law, membership of a state-designated “terrorist organisation” is an offence, even if a person has not been involved in planning and/or carrying out an attack. Police can also keep a suspect in detention for longer in order for investigators and prosecutors to have more time to prepare a case.

“This new law was needed to prevent more terrorist attacks from happening,” a policeman who lost his leg in a terrorist attack in 2016 told Catholic news agency UCAN. Danny Maheu said that before this new bill, police were only able to arrest suspects after the event.

Al Chaidar, an expert on terrorism from Malikussaleh University in Indonesia’s Aceh province, told UCAN the new regulations were timely as IS recruits from Indonesia were returning home from areas in the world where the terrorist group had lost territory.