Indonesia: Jemaah Islamiyah does not exist, says vice-president

Jakarta, 30 April (AKI) - The Indonesian vice-president, Jusuf Kalla, says the government cannot ban the militant Islamic group, Jemaah Islamiyah, because it does not exist.

"Jemaah Islamiyah does not exist as an organisation and therefore it cannot be banned," said Kalla in an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI).

"How can we impose a ban? Who is the [group's] president? Where are its headquarters? Who are its members?" asked Kalla.

Jemaah Islamiyah is the terrorist group blamed for most of the deadly attacks that have hit Southeast Asia in the last few years. These include the 2002 Bali bombings which killed 202 people and injured 209 others.

The group is considered a terrorist organisation in the US, Australia, Malaysia and Singapore but not in Indonesia where it enjoys the support of a minority, particularly those who come from the central-eastern island of Java.

Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world. The vast majority of the 200 million Muslims in Indonesia practise a moderate version of Islam.

Earlier this month, Indonesian chief judge Wahjono declared JI a "prohibited organisation" in court as he sentenced two leading JI members, Abu Dujana and Zarkasih, to 15 years in prison for terror-related offences.

Some analysts had hoped that the statement by the judge, the first of its kind, would push the Indonesian government to ban JI.

Kalla said that banning JI is a secondary issue and that Indonesia had achieved good results in its fight against terrorism.

"Our approach includes taking an iron fist with the terrorists, improving economic conditions and spreading a moderate message in the Islamic environment," he said.

"We have had great results, a fact recognised all over the world."

Hundreds of JI members have been arrested in Indonesia since 2002, where according to some experts, the threat posed by the terrorist group has been minimised.

Experts have also often noted that Indonesia has dealt with terrorism in the country without introducing tough laws.


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