Arrested Rustawi in good spirits, well-treated: embassy

National 2 minutes, 23 seconds


THE Indonesian embassy yesterday said it is committed to ensure the welfare of its citizens after a 63-year-old Indonesian man was arrested last Saturday for carrying explosives on board a Royal Brunei Airlines flight from Surabaya.

Andri Said, political counsellor at the Indonesian Embassy, told The Brunei Times that embassy officials met with the suspect, Rustawi Tomo Kabul, for 45 minutes yesterday.

“He was in good spirits and said he was being well-treated… This was only our first meeting so we did not discuss the substance of the case but our priority is to ensure his welfare,” he said in a telephone interview.

Rustawi was travelling to Saudi Arabia as part of an Umrah-bound group when airport security detected several suspicious items in his luggage during transit at Brunei International Airport.

According to officials from the Indonesian foreign ministry and the East Java Police, materials to make bombs, ammunition and a flag resembling the banner of terror group the Islamic State (IS) was found amongst his belongings.

He was subsequently arrested and charged with possession of unlicensed firearms in court on Monday.

Andri added that the embassy will retain legal counsel for the defendant as part of the Indonesian government’s commitment to provide protection for its citizens overseas. “Rustawi also asked we contact his family in Malang to inform them of his condition.”

He is facing a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison with whipping if convicted of firearms possession. So far, no plea has been taken from the defendant.

Andri declined to comment on the allegations of Rustawi’s links to the Islamic State and the suspicious items found in his luggage.

At the time of his arrest, two other people were also detained for questioning but were subse-quently released and allowed to travel onward to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The arrest comes as the Indonesian government steps up measures to prevent its citizens from joining the militant organisation.

The Jakarta Post quoted National Counterterrorism Agency chief, Comr Gen Saud Usman Nasution, as saying that recruitment of IS fighters from Indonesia jumped significantly between June and October last year. It is estimated that 514 Indonesians have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight with IS.

Earlier this year, a 34-year-old local woman was detained by the Internal Security Department (ISD) for facilitating the entry of a suspected terrorist into Brunei, who planned to join the IS fight in the Middle East.

The domestic intelligence agency has also probed public reports of some individuals brandishing the IS banner in their vehicles.

Followers of the militant group in Southeast Asia have been known to fly to nearby countries before taking a connecting flight to Iraq or Syria in a bid to evade detection by authorities.

The Internal Security Department has urged the public to report information on suspicious activities to its hotline at 133 or 8848004.

The Brunei Times