A Jakarta court on Monday convicted and sentenced the leader of an al-Qaeda-linked militant group and his deputy on terrorism charges for helping rebuild Jemaah Islamiyah, an outlawed network blamed for the 2002 Bali bombings – Indonesia’s deadliest terror attack.
Separate panels at the East Jakarta District Court sentenced JI leader Para Wijayanto, 55, and Budi Tri Karyanto, 42, to seven years and six and a half years in prison, respectively, after finding them guilty of the charges, which included sending Jemaah Islamiyah members to Syria to fight alongside opposition rebels there.
Para restructured JI – al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Southeast Asia – after he assumed leadership of the organization following an Indonesian court ruling in 2008 that banned the group, the panel of judges at the East Jakarta District Court found.
“Even though no violence was used, the defendant had already made plans and prepared followers with the intention of establishing an Islamic State in Indonesia,” chief judge Alex Adam Faisal said.
The JI leader also sent fighters to Syria to join opposition rebels with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and look for weapons, the judges said. The FSA has sought to bring down the government of President Bashar al-Assad in a civil war that broke out in the Mid-East nation in 2011.
The prosecution had sought a sentence of 10 years for Para and nine years for Budi.
Monday’s court session was conducted remotely in keeping with social distancing measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The prosecution had accused Para of spending 140 million rupiah ($9,600) on military training for JI members to support global “jihad.”
Police said Para had been on Indonesia’s most-wanted list since 2008. In June 2019, both he and his wife, Masitha Yasmin, were arrested in Bekasi, near Jakarta.
According to the indictment against him, Para undertook military training in the 2000s in the southern Philippines, where he learned intelligence and bomb-making skills.
Para allegedly had roles in several deadly JI attacks, including the coordinated bombings on Christmas Eve 2000 that killed 18 people, and the Bali bombings that killed 202 people in October 2002.
Police have blamed Jemaah Islamiyah members for other attacks including the 2003 bombing at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, in which 12 were killed; the 2004 attack on the Australian Embassy that killed nine; and twin bombings at the J.W. Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels in Jakarta in 2009 that killed seven along with two suicide bombers.
Police also said that Para had provided intelligence and helped recruit militants in Poso, Central Sulawesi province, between 2005 and 2007. Poso was the scene of previous clashes between Muslims and Christians that left thousands dead.
Sidney Jones, an expert on Islamic militancy in Indonesia and director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) in Jakarta, said last year that while JI was a threat, she cautioned against lumping it with Islamic State (IS).
Para saw violence in Indonesia as counter-productive and was strongly opposed to IS, Jones said at the time.
Jones said JI had severed ties with its co-founder, cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, who is serving a 15-year-jail term, after he founded the Indonesian Mujahideen Council.
Bashir was arrested after the 2002 Bali bombings, but prosecutors could not link him to that attack. The cleric was jailed after his 2010 arrest and sentenced in 2011 to 15 years on charges that he helped fund a training camp for Islamic militants in Aceh province, as well as incited extremists to carry out terrorist attacks.