Agus Dwikarna is serving a 17-year jail sentence in a Manila prison for illegalpossession of explosives.He is regarded as a linkman for Osama bin Laden ’sal-Qaeda and also the Jemaah Islamiah.In an exclusive interview withLOURDES CHARLES inside the New Bilid prison,he tells his side of the story.
SUSPECTED Indonesian terrorist and Jemaah Islamiah (JI) member Agus Dwikarna describes himself as “a very frustrated, sad and bitter man.”
“Saya sedih, saya cukup sedih, sungguh stress baca macam-macam mengenai saya di koran-koran (I am sad, very sad, extremely stressed when I read the things written about me in newspapers),” said the 39-year-old man who is serving a 17-year jail sentence in a Manila prison for possession of explosives.
He has made every effort to tell anyone who cares to listen to him that he has been framed, but security agencies in the region think otherwise. They say he is one of the linkmen to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda web of terrorism.
The United States recently released an order freezing his assets and has named him as one of the 10 JI members in Indonesia.
He has also been accused by US officials of helping to bring hundreds of operatives from Europe to a training camp he set up in Indonesia, and fuelling sectarian violence in the republic.
In Spain, there are documents charging him with sending these fighters to Afghanistan, Bosnia and Indonesia.
Others claim that he was connected to the al-Qaeda cell in Spain headed by Imad Eddin Barakat Yarbas, who allegedly recruited and raised funds for al-Qaeda. Agus has dismissed all of them.
On July 17, Judge Henrick F. Gingoyon of the Pasay city court in the Philippines convicted Agus for possession of explosive substances.
Arrested at the Ninoy Aquino airport on March 13 last year, Agus, who was with three Thai nationals and two other Indonesians, was the only one charged and convicted. The others were freed.
He is currently serving a 10 to 17-year prison term in the New Bilid high security prison in the Muntinlupa city located about 55km from Manila.
Wearing a white prison T-shirt with the number N203 P2474 clearly printed on his name tag, Agus was a frail and jaded figure as he sat in the air-conditioned visitor's room of Dr Edilinda Garcia Patac, the prison’s chief psychiatrist.
“I have been framed. This is a political conspiracy. I have done nothing wrong and yet I have been found guilty in record time,” said the father of five who is from Makassar, Indonesia.
Claiming to be a businessman who had come to the Philippines to study how to run and manage the tuna fish industry, he said: “Me and my friends from Thailand and Indonesia were about to board our aircraft when we were suddenly nabbed by the airport authorities.
“I was told that never in the history of the Philippines has there been a person who was charged and convicted within two months,’’ he said during this exclusive interview.
However, the intelligence network of regional security forces say this 5ft 3in engineering graduate of the Universitas Muslim Indonesia in Makassar is a key figure in terrorist activities in the region.
They claim that Agus is a close associate of Abubakar Ba’asyir, Hambali @ Reduan Isamuddin, Faiz Abu Bakar Bafanna, Fathur Rohman Al Ghozi (who recently escaped from a Philippines prison) and several others.
Agus swears he doesn’t know any of them, except for Abubakar Ba’asyir whom he met at the first Majilis Mujahadeen Indonesia congress in Jogjakarta in August 2000.
“I don’t know Hambali, Faiz Abu Bakar Bafanna, Fathur Rohman or any others, as alleged by the intelligence officers,” he said.
“I am not a man of violence and I do not condone such acts. I have a clean track record in Indonesia; you can check if you want.”
Agus, however, admitted he was the steering committee leader of an Islamic group in Makassar, which vows to implement syariah laws in the republic, and had organised an Islamic meeting in South Sulawesi.
But he maintained it was not a JI meeting. He said he did not even know what JI was until he read about it in the newspapers.
Asked whether he had visited Malaysia, Agus replied: “Only once.”
But Indonesia’s Tempo magazine had reported that police intelligence divisions in both Singapore and Malaysian have recorded his presence at several meetings of the Rabitatul Mujahidin in Subang, Selangor, and in Sungai Siput, Perak, in 2000.
The meetings were allegedly attended by Abubakar Ba’asyir, Hambali, Teuku Idris (Aceh), Abu Hurairah, (MILF) Nik Adli (son of PAS spiritual chief Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat) and Abu Fatah from Thailand.
Tamsil Linrung, who allegedly attended these meetings, was arrested together with Agus at the airport but later freed.
Said Agus: “I have never attended any such meeting. The only meeting I had in Malaysia was when I went to invite Ustaz Abdul Hadi Awang, a PAS member in Terengganu, to attend our Islamic congress in Sulawesi. That’s all.”
Hadi, who was recently elected PAS president, had admitted to attending the congress as an official last year but denied any involvement with terrorism.
The Terengganu Mentri Besar also maintained that he had informed the Malaysian Embassy of his trip and meeting with Islamic scholars in Makassar.
Hadi insisted he was unaware of the presence at that meeting of Abubakar Ba’asyir and other radicals, who were later alleged to be JI members.
Agus, who is the head of the militant Laskar Jundullah, was once the “neighbour” of Fathur Rohman Al Ghozi, a JI member serving a jail sentence for several bombings in Manila until his escape in July.
Fathur, an Indonesian, is nicknamed “Mike the Bomber.”
Agus said he only knew Fathur while in the police prison in Camp Crame. (Fathur was in the next cell.)
He said he never spoke much with Fathur as he was not keen to mingle with other prisoners.
However, intelligence reports state that Fathur’s phone number was found in Agus’ mobile phone.
To that, Agus replied: “I know of one Fathur Rohman who was an observer of issues on Aceh and he is listed in my cellular phone. But I do not know if he is the same person.’’
Agus insists that he has not committed any offence in Indonesia or any other part of the world, and wants his government to help him get out of prison.
“I still am an Indonesian citizen. My government should either get me released or extradite me to face charges in Indonesia,’’ he said.
Since his arrest, Agus has not had any visitor except his lawyer. He said his wife and children were afraid to visit him because they felt they too would be arrested.
He also said he was suffering from low blood pressure and other ailments, and appealed to the Indonesian Government to help him get out.
But it will be a long wait before Agus walks out a free man as he has only served 16 months in jail so far. The odds are against him with intelligence agencies strongly doubting his innocence.
|About Agus Dwikarna |
Birthplace: Makassar, South Sulawesi
Education: Universitas Muslim Indonesia graduate in engineering, Makassar
Current status: Serving 17 years' jail in Manila for possession of explosivesArrested at Manila airport in March 2002 with a large amount of explosives in hisluggage. Also arrested was Jemaah Islamiah leader Fathur Rohman Al-Ghoziwho was jailed on a similar charge but escaped from the Manila jail in July.
Accused of involvement in Manila and Jakarta bombings and is said to have guid-edal-Qaeda operatives in Aceh.
Allegedly attended meeting called by JI mastermind Hambali and founderAbubakar Ba’asyir in Kuala Lumpur in late 1999 to set up Rabitatul Mujahidin orInternational Mujahidin Association.
Positions: Commander of militia group Laskar Jundullah in South Sulawesi. Thegroup sent fighters to Poso and Maluku to fight against Christians. The termLaskar Jundullah (Army of Allah) was used by a number of ad hoc units thatfought in Maluku and Poso prior to the group’s formal creation in September2000.
Chairman of committee for the enforcement of syariah law, South Sulawesi.
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