Jailed Indonesian Cleric’s Terrorism Trial to Wrap up in Late June, Judge Says

Arie Firdaus, Tria Dianti and Yovinus Guntur
Jakarta and Tulungagung, Indonesia
180530-aman-1000.jpg Police escort terrorism defendant Aman Abdurrahman (orange shirt) after a court hearing in Jakarta, May 18, 2018.
Arie Firdaus/BenarNews

Judges will decide the fate of Aman Abdurrahman, a terrorism defendant accused of mentoring Islamic State followers in Indonesia, on June 22, a  judge said Wednesday.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the radical cleric they accuse of masterminding terror attacks that killed nine people, including a 2-year-old girl, in 2016 and 2017.

"The hearing will be after Lebaran,” head judge Akhmad Jaini said in announcing the sentencing date in South Jakarta District Court, using the Indonesian term for the holiday that ends Ramadan and falls this year in mid-June.

Aman is the de facto leader of Islamic State (IS) supporters in Indonesia, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In January 2017 the U.S. government designated him a “global terrorist,” alleging that he founded the militant group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), composed of two dozen pro-IS groups.

If Aman is found guilty, it will be his third terrorism conviction. He had previously been sentenced in 2005, after an explosive device detonated in his residence, and again in 2010, for involvement in a terrorism training camp in the mountains of Aceh.

Jihad call on social media

Prosecutors say Aman is a key IS ideologue who was responsible for a series of terrorist acts in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, in 2016 and 2017, although he was in prison at the time.

They include a terror attack on a busy Jakarta boulevard in January 2016; a Molotov cocktail blast at a church in Samarinda, East Kalimantan province in November 2016; a suicide attack at a Jakarta bus station in May 2017; and attacks on police in West Nusa Tenggara and North Sumatra. Nine people, including a 2-year old girl, were killed in the attacks.

Aman insisted again in court Wednesday he knew nothing of the incidents and heard about them only after they occurred.

“If it’s linked to the principle of declaring this a non-believer government, please, punish me with any punishment. If you want it to be a death sentence, please go ahead,” the 46-year-old told the court on Wednesday. “If it’s linked to [terrorism] cases, in this trial there has not been even one witness who stated I was involved.”

Prosecutor Anita Dewayani said Aman was linked to the attacks because they were carried out by members of the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) network he created.

"It’s not a coincidence," she said. "What’s more, the defendant also released a written appeal that circulated on social media in 2015.”

The appeal called for followers to carry out jihad wherever they were, and if they were unable to migrate to Syria, to do jihad in the form of supporting others through words or donations.

"That appeal  incited and provoked his followers to carry out jihad, resulting in bombings and murders,” the prosecutor said.

Aman’s lawyer, Asludin Hatjani, asserted that no fact laid out in court had demonstrated that his client was involved in acts of terrorism.

"He only encouraged his followers to migrate, not to spread terror in their own country," Asludin said.

He said his client had stated in court that recent suicide bombings at churches in Surabaya did not align with his teachings.

"The people who carried out or endorsed the events in Surabaya, are mentally ill," Aman said in court at a previous session.

Aman’s trial spotlighted the loopholes in Indonesia’s overcrowded prison system, where terrorism plots are hatched and banned materials, including cellphones, are smuggled in with ease, security analysts say.

Deportees Being Questioned

Separately, counterterrorism police were questioning five women and three children deported from Turkey for attempting to cross into Syria, officials said.

The eight returned to Indonesian on May 24 and were taken into custody of Densus 88, the elite counterterrorism force.

The five adults were identified as Irma Novianingsih, 24; Fitri Luthfiana, 43; Ainun Jariyah, 21; Wasiatun Nisa Damad, 33; and Qurrota Ayun Muhdi, 23. The children were aged 3, 9 and 12, authorities said.

Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, an Indonesian foreign ministry official, said the Turkish government intercepted the eight before they entered Syria.

“They have been handed over to Densus 88 for questioning,” he said.

Turkish authorities have deported 492 Indonesians since 2015, according to Foreign Ministry data.

Setyo Wasisto, a police spokesman, told BenarNews that Densus 88 had one week to question the group.

“We don’t yet have info on whether they were involved in ISIS or not. They are being examined,” he said.

‘In Shock’

Irma’s parents said she had told them she was going to Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of Borneo, to become a teacher.

“We are still in shock, from hearing this news,” Riyadi, 47, tearfully told BenarNews at the family home in East Java’s Tulungagung regency.

Since then, police and soldiers have searched the house and questioned them, she said.

Riyadi said Irma had not come home since bidding her parents farewell in June 2017, allegedly to teach in another province. “We did not know Irma left the country,” said her father, Mujiatin, 50.

On campus, at the State Islamic Institute, at a state-run Islamic college in Tulungagung regency, Irma was known for being a private person who wore a long veil and interacted only with close friends,

Agus Ali Mashuri, a student acquaintance, said that sometime in early 2017 word got around that she was inviting friends to learn archery, an unusual activity for Indonesian women.

An assistant rector at the school, Abad Badruzzaman said she had dropped out at the beginning of her seventh semester at the school, after missing classes frequently during the previous semester.

East Java arrests

Meanwhile, East Java police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera said Densus 88 on Tuesday evening arrested four suspects linked to suicide bombings in Surabaya on May 13 and 14.

The individuals aged 42 to 54 were arrested in separate locations in nearby Probolinggo Regency, and one of them was a civil servant, he said.

A fifth suspect was arrested near a mosque in Tropodo village of Sidoarjo regency Wednesday, bringing the total number of people arrested in East Java since May 13 church bombings to 31, he said.

Four other people were shot dead while resisting arrest, according to Frans.


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