An Indonesian court on Wednesday sentenced an ethnic Uyghur immigrant to six years in prison, saying he had planned to carry out a suicide bombing targeting Shia Muslims.
Nur Muhammet Abdullah (alias Ali) was part of a terror cell linked to the Islamic State (IS) that was planning several attacks in the Jakarta area last year, the court heard during trial proceedings.
Two of the men who testified against him are already serving terrorism sentences. According to them, Ali “had the job of taking explosive powder out of firecrackers for use in making bombs when he was in Puncak, West Java,” chief judge Novvry Tammy Oroh said in court Wednesday.
Ali was also being groomed to become a suicide bomber to attack a community of minority Shia Muslims in Bogor, West Java, about 40 miles from the Indonesian capital, Novvry said.
One member of the cell, Arif Hidayatullah, was the “right hand” of Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian IS member in Syria who was behind the Jan. 14 terror attack in central Jakarta that left eight people dead, according to police and court testimony.
Bahrun instructed Arif to meet Ali when he arrived in Indonesia at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, prosecutors said during Arif’s trial.
The East Jakarta District Court sentenced Arif to six years in prison in early October.
The terror cell was also plotting to attack a Jewish community in Bogor, as well as top police officials and Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, according to prosecutors.
But the plans did not materialize due to conflict within the group, which then split up. Anti-terror police arrested Arif and Ali in Bekasi, West Java on Dec. 23, 2015.
Two other militants went to Solo, a city in Central Java. Andika Bagus Setiawan was arrested on Dec. 29, 2015 and sentenced to five years in prison in February. Nur Rohman blew himself up outside a police station in Solo on July 5, 2016.
“The failure of those actions was due to differences of opinion among themselves,” Novvry said. Despite this, criminal intent was present, he added.
‘We accept it’
Arman Remy, Ali’s attorney, said his client acknowledged wrongdoing and accepted the sentence handed down by the court, which was two years shorter than the punishment requested by prosecutors.
Ali was convicted of violating Indonesian anti-terrorism laws – Law No 15, 2003 and Law No. 9, 2013. The laws permit maximum sentences of up to 20 years behind bars.
The sentence “could have been higher. Yes, we accept it," Arman told BenarNews after the hearing.
In court, Arman told the judge that Ali had originally planned to go to Turkey but now wanted to become an Indonesian citizen.
“He should carry out his sentence first, then he can take care of becoming a citizen,” Novvry replied.
Ali is one of several Uyghurs linked to terrorism in Indonesia.
In 2015, North Jakarta District Court found four Uyghur men guilty of trying to join the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT), a militant group based in Central Sulawesi.
Six other Uyghur men who succeeded in joining MIT were killed earlier this year during a large security operation in Poso regency aimed at obliterating the group, which has dwindled to about 10 members. MIT leader Santoso was killed in July.
The Uyghurs are a Muslim minority within China, and mostly live in the western Xinjiang region. Uyghurs also are spread across Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,Uzbekistan and Turkey.
During the last couple of years, Uyghurs have been leaving China in large numbers to escape persecution and repression by authorities, who consider them separatists and terrorists and have cracked down on their religion and culture.
Chinese authorities have blamed an upsurge of violence in Xinjiang since 2012 on “terrorists” and insurgents seeking to establish an independent state.
A spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, a diaspora organization based in the United States, urged authorities in Jakarta to be “careful” when cooperating with China on anti-terrorism cases related to Uyghurs.
"We oppose any action taken by Jakarta that justifies China's widespread and systematic human rights violations in Xinjiang,” Dilshat Rishit said.