Updated at 4:33 p.m. ET on 2018-06-22
A Jakarta court Friday sentenced the de facto leader of Islamic State’s Indonesian branch to death after finding him guilty of ordering militants to launch several terror attacks since 2016.
Aman Abdurrahman (alias Oman Rachman), 46, widely described as Indonesia’s most influential pro-Islamic State (IS) ideologue, did not say a word. But he stood up from his seat, then knelt and bowed his head to the floor as soon as a judge finished reading out the verdict.
“The defendant was legally and convincingly found guilty of perpetrating terrorism on two charges,” Presiding Judge Akhmad Jaini said at the South Jakarta District Court.
Prosecutors had sought the death penalty for the radical cleric whom they had accused of masterminding deadly terror attacks during the past two years from behind bars, while he was serving time for an earlier conviction.
“The defendant played an important role by delivering online sermons to incite his followers to carry out suicide bombings that claimed lives,” judge Akhmad said. “Therefore he has to take responsibility of his actions.”
Aman denied the charges against him during his testimony in April this year. His lawyer, Asludin Hatjani, described the ruling as “unfair” and said prosecutors did not provide evidence linking the cleric to terror attacks.
Prosecutors said Aman had asked a known militant leader to visit him at a maximum security prison in Cilacap, Central Java in late 2015. During their meeting, according to prosecutors, Aman ordered supporters to launch terror strikes, saying he had received instructions from IS leaders in Syria to emulate attacks carried out by IS supporters in Paris in November 2015.
On Jan. 14, 2016, militants launched gun and bomb attacks near a shopping center and a coffee shop in Central Jakarta. The attacks, the first terror strike claimed by IS in Southeast Asia, killed eight including four militants.
Prosecutors said Aman had also inspired militants in a suicide attack that killed three police officers at a bus station in Jakarta last year, as well as a Molotov cocktail blast that killed a 2-year-old and injured three other children at a church in East Kalimantan province in November 2016.
During Friday’s courtroom deliberations, hundreds of counterterrorism police secured the courthouse in South Jakarta.
Commandos wore black body armor and carried assault rifles. They were heard saying “praise be to God” after the verdict was announced.
Third terror-related conviction
Friday’s verdict marked Aman’s 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 province.
Police officers formed a barricade around Aman as they took him out of the courtroom. His lawyer, Asludin Hatjani, said he had met the cleric Friday morning before the sentencing and his client had told him that he planned to kneel after the sentencing.
“He didn’t tell me why. But he only told me that he would go down on his knees and prostrate himself if he was sentenced to death, and he did that,” Asludin told journalists after the verdict and sentence were handed down.
Aman has a right to appeal, but Asludin said he would consult with his client to determine his next legal move.
The nation last carried out capital punishment for terrorism convicts in 2008, when three Bali bombers were put to death by firing squad.
Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority nation, suffered its worst terror attack in 2002 when militants detonated bombs on the island of Bali, killing 202 people.
‘De facto leader of IS in Indonesia’
In January 2017, the U.S. government designated Aman a “global terrorist,” alleging he had founded the militant group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), composed of two dozen pro-IS groups. American officials have also described him as “the de facto leader of IS supporters in Indonesia.”
JAD was also involved in suicide bombings last month in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city, authorities said, but Aman has not been charged in those attacks. These involved three families, including girls aged 12 and nine, who allegedly blew themselves up, officials said.
Twenty-seven people died, including 13 suspects.
During Aman’s latest trial, prosecutors presented as evidence Aman’s books and other writings known to have influenced militant groups.
“There are orders to carry out jihad there,” prosecutor Mayasari told the court in April.
Aman’s trial spotlighted the loopholes in Indonesia’s overcrowded prison system, where terrorism plots are hatched and banned materials are smuggled in with ease, security analysts said.
“No question that Aman Abdurrahman is Indonesia’s most important extremist ideologue, whose writings and sermons, disseminated online and over social media, influenced thousands,” Sidney Jones, director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), told BenarNews in April.
Aman’s ability to reach out to his followers declined, as did his access to news about developments, when prison officials placed him in an isolation cell and took away his mobile phone after the January 2016 Jakarta attacks, Jones said.
Meanwhile, the national police force is “on alert potential threats” from terrorists, said spokesman Yusri Yunus.
“We continue to be vigilant,” he told BenarNews on Friday. “We continue to coordinate with other prevention agencies.”
Adhe Bhakti, an analyst at the Center for Radicalization and De-radicalization Studies in Jakarta, said police should beef up security and the monitoring of militant activity after Aman’s trial.
“We have to watch out for revenge, especially after a judge sentences to death the person they [militants] really revered as their leader,” he said. “They have been inspired by his words.”