Updated at 4:59 p.m. ET on 2020-04-09
A married couple accused of stabbing an Indonesian security minister in a brazen attack linked to an Islamic State affiliate went on trial Thursday, in a hearing conducted remotely as part of social distancing measures to curb the coronavirus outbreak.
Syahrial Alamsyah, 51, and his wife, Fitri Diana, face charges of criminal conspiracy and using violence to instill terror in the October 2019 attack on then-Minister Wiranto, according to the indictment read out at the West Jakarta district court. They could face the death penalty, if convicted.
Syahrial (alias Abu Rara) and Fitri listened to their indictment via a video link while in detention at the Gunung Sindur prison in Bogor, about 55 km (34 miles) south of Jakarta.
Wiranto, who was then coordinator minister for security, legal and political affairs, was stepping out of a car during a working visit to Pandeglang town in Banten province on Oct. 10, when the couple used knives to attack him and two other people who were accompanying him, investigators said.
Wiranto, 73, suffered two deep wounds in the stomach. He has since recovered after surgery.
The attack was witnessed by villagers and children who had gathered to welcome Wiranto, a former armed forces chief. Videos of the incident circulated on social media soon after the stabbing.
At the time police said the couple were loosely linked to Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), a local militant network linked with Islamic State (IS), and that authorities had monitored them for three months.
The indictment also accused Syahrial and Fitri of involving a child in terrorism, by allegedly bringing their 12-year-old daughter to the attack.
“The actions of the defendants created an atmosphere of fear in the Pandeglang community and among the Indonesian public in general,” prosecutor Herry Wiyanto said, reading from the indictment.
The court heard that Syahrial had pledged allegiance to IS in October 2018 in East Java province and since then had diligently consumed online lectures by Aman Abdurrahman, the JAD founder and chief ideologue who was sentenced to death in 2018 for orchestrating a series of terrorist attacks in Indonesia.
Syahrial had bought his bladed weapons online and practiced stabbings before carrying out the attack, the indictment said.
Faris, a defense lawyer for the couple, described the attack as “an ordinary stabbing.”
“We’ll see if the prosecutors can prove their charges,” he told reporters.
The court also heard an indictment against Syahrial’s alleged associate, Samsudin, 43.
Samsudin (alias Jack Sparrow) was accused of a criminal conspiracy by inviting Syahrial and others to conduct military training, plotting an attack targeting foreign workers at a cement factory in Banten province; and planning the robbery of a gold shop for terrorism financing.
The suspects communicated to each other via WhatsApp groups called “Defenders of Tawhid (Monotheism)” and “Islamic State,” according to the indictment.
The hearing was adjourned until April 23.
Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, has been hit by a string of terrorist attacks since the early 2000s, with more recent strikes blamed on IS-affiliated militants.
Authorities blame militants for the country’s deadliest terror attack – the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people – and several other deadly blasts.
Updated to clarify that the trial began Thursday.