A man who allegedly planned bomb attacks in Indonesia with his handler in Syria on the Telegram app was sentenced Monday in a Jakarta court to six years in prison.
Judges found Arif Hidayatullah bin Soekarno, alias Abu Mushab, guilty of conspiracy to commit terrorism acts based on the testimony of eight witnesses and the accused himself, chief judge Siti Jamzanah told East Jakarta District Court.
Arif communicated over Telegram with Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian member of the Islamic State (IS) based in Syria, in June 2015. The two discussed plans to mount bomb attacks in Indonesia, the court heard.
Targets discussed by the two men included Jewish and Shia Muslim communities in Bogor, West Java, Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (“Ahok”) and National Police Chief Tito Karnavian, who at the time was Jakarta metropolitan area police chief.
Bahrun also instructed Arif to meet an ethnic Uyghur man named Nur Muhammet Abdullah, alias Ali, when he arrived in Indonesia at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, the court was told. Police investigations revealed that Ali was being groomed to become a suicide bomber.
“The actions of the accused disturb and endanger society, so criminal sanctions are merited,” the judge said.
The defendant, dressed in a long white shirt and red kaffiyeh, appeared calm in court and smiled several times at his wife, who was sitting among the spectators.
Prosecutors had asked that the 32-year-old be sentenced to eight years in jail, but judges trimmed the sentence by two years because he had no prior criminal record.
In comments to BenarNews after his sentencing, Arif denied he was planning bombings or acting as Bahrun Naim’s “right-hand man.”
“That’s not right,” he said of those points.
Arif said that he knew Bahrun Naim from when they were both in high school in Solo, Central Java. He did not deny that he had talked to Bahrun on Telegram in June 2015.
“But, Bahrun only told me to be istiqamah (steadfast). There was no discussion of bomb plans,” Arif said.
“That in fact was my first communication with him since our school days,” he added.
These points could become part of their defense if they decide to appeal the decision to Jakarta High Court, according to Khadafi, Arif’s lawyer.
“We are still thinking about it,” Khadafi said of the decision to appeal the ruling.
Arif was arrested on Dec. 23 in Bekasi, West Java, a city on the eastern outskirts of Jakarta, as he was on his way to work at an automotive company. He was charged with possessing a list of IS supporters in Indonesia and a photocopy of a book about explosives, according to media reports at the time.
Information gleaned from Arif led to the arrest later that day of the Uyghur man who was nabbed at a boarding house with a false Indonesian identity card.
“This Ali is allegedly a Uyghur who was studying Indonesian. He was being groomed as a suicide bomber,” National Police chief Badrodin Haiti said shortly after the arrest.
The arrests were among 13 carried out in various parts of Java in the last two weeks of 2015, with police claiming they had disrupted a major plot backed by an IS leader in Syria to attack public figures and places of worship in Indonesia.
On Jan. 14, 2016, four men carried out a bomb and gun attack outside a shopping center in downtown Jakarta, just 3 km (1.86 miles) from the Presidential Palace. The attack left eight people dead, including the attackers, and 24 injured. It was the first attack claimed by IS in Indonesia.
The second occurred on July 5, 2016, when an IS-linked suicide bomber attacked police headquarters in Solo, blowing himself up and injuring an officer, Indonesian authorities said.
Police identified the attacker as Nur Rohman, 31, through an identification card found at the scene, and said he was a member of a local terror cell headed by Arif Hidayatullah, police told reporters at the time.
At least 20 Indonesians have been prosecuted and sentenced to prison terms for supporting IS. The National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) reports that some 500 Indonesian nationals have gone to Syria and Iraq to join the extremist group.