A married couple went on trial Thursday, charged with involvement in the back-to-back suicide bomb attacks on three churches and a police headquarters that killed 24 people in Indonesia’s second-largest city in May.
Agus Satrio Widodo, 35, a suspected leader of the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) militant group in Jombang, East Java, and his wife, Damayanti, are accused of hiding some of the unused explosives intended for the attacks.
Agus faces the death sentence, while Damayanti could be sent to prison for up to 20 years, if found guilty of involvement in criminal conspiracy to conduct an act of terrorism, according to the indictment read out by prosecutors at a West Jakarta court.
“The defendants feel there are errors in the indictment,” Faris, a lawyer for Agus and Damayanti, told BenarNews. He did not elaborate.
After the bombings, anti-terror officers raided the couple’s rented house in Sidoarjo, near Surabaya, and found seven pipe bombs and 40 cups of explosive materials, according to the indictment.
Agus and an alleged accomplice, Ilham Fauzan, who was killed in the police raid, tried to disassemble the bombs, while Damayanti cleaned up materials such as bolts, screws and fuses and put them in a plastic bag, prosecutor Amril Abdi said during the trial.
The Surabaya bombings killed 14 bystanders, as well as 10 members of two families who were blamed for carrying out the bombings. Authorities blamed the East Java-based militant group JAD for the attacks.
The trial was the first for suspects accused of involvement in the bombings that spurred the Indonesian parliament to introduce new anti-terror laws.
Affiliated with Islamic State
Agus and Damayanti were arrested by members of the Densus 88 anti-terrorism unit on May 14, hours after the church bombings and before the attack on the police headquarters in Surabaya.
The sucide attack at the gate of the police headquarters was carried out by Tri Murtiono, his wife and three children. One of the children survived after being thrown by the force of the explosion.
A day earlier, Dita Supriyanto, his wife and their four children blew themselves up outside three Surabaya churches.
Authorities said Dita was the head of JAD for Surabaya.
"The acts of terrorism carried out by Dita and Tri were part of JAD’s mission in East Java," prosecutor Amril told the court.
In July, the South Jakarta District Court declared JAD “an outlawed organization” after ruling that it was affiliated with the Islamic State (IS). The hearing marked the first time in a decade that Indonesia had prosecuted a terror group.
The verdict would make it easier for law enforcement officials in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation to arrest suspects connected to the organization or to prosecute other terror groups, analysts said.
JAD militants have carried out a series of attacks in the country since 2014, including one that killed four people in January 2016 in Jakarta. That attack in the nation’s capital was the first terror strike claimed by IS in Southeast Asia.
Accused of pledging allegiance to IS
According to the indictment, Agus pledged allegiance to IS in Batu, Malang during a 2015 JAD meeting that was also attended by Zainal Anshori, who was then the JAD chief for East Java.
Zainal was later appointed as JAD’s national-level leader, replacing Abu Musa, who left for Syria, court documents said.
Zainal is serving a 7-year prison term after being convicted of involvement in terrorism in February.
JAD’s main ideologue, cleric Aman Abdurrahman, was sentenced to death by a Jakarta court in June for his role in the terrorist attacks carried out by the group.
A third defendant on trial in the same courtroom, Syamsul Arifin, who is the alleged head of JAD for East Java’s Blitar regency, was charged with conducting armed training and a conspiracy to carry out terrorist acts.
Syamsul, who could also face death sentence if found guilty, “conducted physical training and encouraged members to carry out terror attacks,” the prosecutor said.
Syamsul held military training several times during 2015 in several locations in East Java, according to the indictment.
"The defendant was told by Zainal Anshori about plans to form a special team tasked with carrying out acts (of terrorism) silently like Kopassus (the Indonesian army special forces)," the prosecutor said.
The team was to receive training from Saiful Muthohir, 43, an alleged bomb expert. But such a team never materialized because Saiful, alias Abu Gar, was arrested and sentenced to nine years in prison in November 2016, the indictment said.