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Indonesia: Uyghur Men Appeal Conviction in Terrorism Trial

By Zahara Tiba
2015-07-16
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Asludin Hatjani, defense attorney for three Uyghur men, speaks to BenarNews following their conviction at North Jakarta District Court, July 13, 2015.
BenarNews

A lawyer for three Uyghur men found guilty of trying to join an Indonesian terrorist group is appealing the verdict, BenarNews has learned.

The appeal was filed Wednesday after consultations with Turkish officials in Jakarta, according to defense attorney Asludin Hatjani.

“The embassy of Turkey sent staff to talk with the four defendants at Brimob Headquarters a day after the verdict. They agreed to appeal and I lodged the appeal yesterday after the talks,” Asludin told BenarNews on Thursday, referring to the police’s Mobile Brigade unit (Brimob).

“Currently we are waiting for a memorandum of appeal from the High Court.”

Turkey’s involvement corroborates that his clients are Turkish, he said.

“I can confirm they are citizens of Turkey, because their documents themselves are still recognized by the embassy and the police. Even the court itself stated their nationality is Turkish,” Asludin said.

On Monday, the court sentenced the three men – Ahmet Mahmud, Altinci Bayram, and Abdul Basit – to six years in prison and a fine of U.S. $7,500 each, after convicting them on charges of attempting to join a local terrorist group and of entering the country illegally last September.

Ahmet Bozoglan, a fourth Uyghur man arrested at the time and accused of being their leader, was tried separately; his verdict is scheduled for July 29.

“In Turkey, there are many Uyghurs. And tension related to the issue of Uyghur terrorism is increasing, including Thailand which has refused to release Uyghurs from custody.”

On July 9, Thai authorities confirmed that they had forcibly repatriated nearly 100 Uyghurs to China, drawing criticism from human rights groups and protests in Turkey over the expulsion of the Turkic-speaking Muslim minority that suffers harsh repression under Chinese rule.

Chinese officials claimed that the refugees were on their way to Turkey, Syria or Iraq to join the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.

Unclear

During their trial at North Jakarta District Court, the men last month could not sing the Turkish national anthem or name its title when prosecutor Nana Riana challenged them to do so.

“How is it that a citizen doesn’t know the national anthem of his own country? I’m Indonesian. My national anthem is ‘Indonesia Raya,’” Nana said in court on June10.

The men’s citizenship could determine where they are sent once the trial is over, she later told BenarNews.

“Going forward, their citizenship status may influence the extradition agreement between Indonesian officials and the government of Turkey or China,” Nana said.

“If they are not Turkish citizens, possibly the court will destroy their passports.”

Earlier, the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) indicated that the four Uyghurs could be extradited to China after their trials.

The MIT connection

The four are believed to have entered Indonesia using false Turkish passports via Malaysia. During an earlier court session they described taking a motorboat from Malaysia to Pekanbaru, Riau Province, on Sumatra island.

They flew to Jakarta, and visited Bogor and Bandung in Java before flying on to Makassar, in Sulawesi.

Shortly thereafter police arrested the four in Central Sulawesi province. Police said they were on their way to join the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT), which is believed to be based in Poso regency in Central Sulawesi.

MIT is believed to have sworn allegiance to IS, and its leader Santoso – Indonesia’s most wanted terrorist – has welcomed foreign mujahideen to join the group, security officials say.

“We have no other intention but vacation,” Basit testified in court.

Announcing the guilty verdict on Monday, presiding judge Kun Marioso said evidence presented in court had proven the guilt of defendants Mahmud, Bayram and Basit.

This included testimony that they were in touch with one of five foreign nationals who have reportedly joined MIT since then.

But Asludin said the prosecution failed to furnish direct evidence linking his clients to terrorism, and that some of the statements made by the judge in announcing the verdict did not match testimony given in court.

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