‘Stop brain-washing terrorists’

Sydney – A suggestion by Australia’s police chief that convicted terrorists could be “de-programmed” in prison has been criticised by a rights group as “brainwashing“.

Police Commissioner Mick Keelty said the technique involved using respected imams or people previously connected with militant organisations to convert extremists.

Keelty told ABC Television’s Lateline programme the process, which he likened to treatment for drug addicts, had been successful in countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Britain.

Indonesia’s anti-terrorist squad now had former Jemaah Islamiah (JI) commander Nasir bin Abbas working for them, re-educating arrested JI recruits, he said.

“It’s somebody they would have otherwise looked up to as a natural leader, in terms of a terrorist, and they’ve turned him around and used him to convert the others,” Keelty said.

Indonesia had convicted around 200 people of terrorist-related offences since the 2002 Bali bombings and something had to be done with those offenders before they could be released back into the community, he said.

“Two hundred people incarcerated presents a problem if they haven’t been reformed by the time they come back out into the community.”

Australian police have worked closely with their Indonesian counterparts in the investigation of JI bomb attacks against tourists on the resort island of Bali and against the Australian embassy in Jakarta.

Keelty said he had raised the idea with the government in Australia, where 24 Muslim men are facing terrorism charges, but it would require a major policy shift and had gone no further.

“Essentially, it would be a threshold question in terms of policy as to whether we would engage in something that forces people into some sort of de-programming or de-radicalisation,” he said.

Australian Council for Civil Liberties spokesperson Terry O’Gorman opposed the plan.

“These countries the police commissioner mentions are involved in torture,” O’Gorman told the national AAP news agency. “This deprogramming is part of the same basket of procedures.”

O’Gorman said there was no evidence to suggest that the practice, which he said was better described as “brainwashing”, was effective in deterring terrorism.

Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network spokesperson Waleed Kadous, however, said a voluntary scheme had merit.

“It’s important to highlight that already many respected scholars in the Muslim community are informally deconstructing terrorism and condemning terrorism to their congregations already.

“If it’s voluntary we have no objection to it, but the problem once you make it compulsory is it just won’t work because religious leaders who do so will be seen as instruments of the government and will lose credibility to those people.”


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
AFP, via News24.com, France
Mar. 9, 2006
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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday March 9, 2006.
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