Indonesian cleric’s terrorism trial resumes

Monday, February 14, 2011

JAKARTA - Muslim militant cleric Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, alleged leader of terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, was back on trial Monday in Indonesia.

The trial of Ba’asyir, accused of allegedly helping to set up and fund an Islamic militant training camp, was adjourned Thursday for a technicality.

If found guilty, the 72-year-old cleric could face the death penalty.

Ba’asyir, wearing a white shawl and skull-cap, entered the court room amid heavy security, cheered by dozens of fanatical followers, many shouting “Allahu Akbar” (or “God is Great”).

He is charged with seven counts of terrorism in connection with a militant training camp in Aceh province that police said was created as part of a plot to attack government and foreign targets.

Prosecutors said the suspect provided firearms, munitions, explosive materials and other dangerous materials for terrorism purposes. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Ba’asyir was arrested in August last year after a series of police raids on alleged members of a new militant group that was setting up base in Aceh on Sumatra island.

Police said Ba’asyir was the main organiser of the group, named by police as Tandzim Al Qaeda Indonesia, and helped raise funds for its activities.

Police said the organisation was a merger of several militant groups, including Jemaah Islamiyah, the Islamic State of Indonesia and Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid, an Islamic outfit founded by Ba’asyir in 2008.

On Thursday, the judges acknowledged the defence’s argument that there had not been the regulatory delay between the delivery of the arraignment letter and the start of the trial, and postponed the hearing.

It was Ba’asyir’s third trial on terrorism charges since the October 2002 Bali bombings.

He was sentenced to 30 months in prison in 2005 for his involvement with the Bali blasts that killed 202 people, mostly foreign visitors.

The Supreme Court later overturned the lower court’s conviction, ruling that he did not play any role in the bombings.

Ba’asyir has consistently denied involvement in terrorism and said he is being persecuted because he campaigns for strict Islamic law in Indonesia, the world’s most-populous Muslim nation.

In a second case brought against him in 2004, a court ruled there was not enough evidence to prove Ba’asyir was involved in the bombings, but it sentenced him to 18 months for immigration offences.

Ba’asyir fled to Malaysia in the mid-1980s to escape persecution by then-dictator Suharto. He returned to Indonesia in 1999 after Suharto’s downfall a year earlier.

Filed under: Terrorism

will not be displayed