Indonesia court sentences cleric behind attacks to death
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Radical cleric Aman Abdurrahman was sentenced to death by an Indonesian court Friday for ordering Islamic State group-affiliated militants to carry out attacks including the January 2016 suicide bombing at a Starbucks in Jakarta.
Abdurrahman, who police and prosecutors say is a key ideologue for IS militants in the world’s largest Muslim nation, kneeled and kissed the floor as the panel of five judges announced the sentence while counterterrorism officers guarding him uttered “praise be to God.”
Several hundred paramilitary and counterterrorism police secured the Jakarta court where the trial took place. Fears of attacks have been elevated in Indonesia after suicide bombings in the country’s second-largest city, Surabaya, last month that were carried out by families including their young children. Police say the leader of those bombers was part of the network of militants inspired by Abdurrahman.
During the trial, prosecutors said Abdurrahman’s instructions from prison, where he was serving a terrorism-related sentence, resulted in several attacks in Indonesia in 2016 and 2017.
They included the Starbucks attack in the capital that killed four civilians and four militants, an attack on a bus terminal in Jakarta that killed three police officers and an attack on a church in Kalimantan that killed a 2-year-old girl. Several other children suffered serious burns from the Kalimantan attack.
The defendant’s “speeches, teachings and instructions have inspired his group and followers to commit criminal acts of terrorism in Indonesia,” said presiding Judge Ahmad Zaini.
The court said there was no reason for leniency. It gave defense lawyers seven days to consider lodging an appeal.
Abdurrahman has refused to recognize the authority of the court, part of his rejection of secular government in Indonesia and desire to replace it with Shariah law.
Adhe Bhakti, an analyst at the Center for Radicalization and De-radicalization Studies in Jakarta, said it’s possible militants could respond to Abdurrahman’s death sentence with reprisal plots.
“His words alone have been able to incite followers to carry out terrorism,” he said. “The security forces must raise awareness and all intelligence services in Indonesia must coordinate well.”
Indonesia’s deadliest attack was in 2002 on the tourist island of Bali when nightclub bombings carried out by Jemaah Islamiyah militants killed 202 people, mostly foreigners.
In the following decade, Indonesian security forces crushed the Al-Qaeda linked JI network, killing leaders and bomb makers and arresting hundreds of militants. But a new threat has emerged in the past several years from IS sympathizers including Indonesians who traveled to the Middle East to fight with IS. According to Bhatki, there were seven IS attacks and three foiled plots in Indonesia in 2017 compared with no attacks in 2015.
According to prosecutors, Abdurrahman founded Jemaah Anshorut Daulah, a network of extremists that pledged allegiance to IS and was opposed to Indonesia’s secular government.
Reflecting a dire lack of supervision of militants in Indonesia’s overcrowded prisons, Abdurrahman was able to spread radicalism and communicate with his supporters on the outside through visitors and video calls, they say.
The suicide bombings in Surabaya last month killed 26 people, including 13 attackers. Two families carried out the attacks, using children as young as 7.
Abdurrahman was sentenced to prison in 2004 after a bomb he made prematurely exploded at a house in West Java, and again in 2011 for his role in helping set up a jihadi training camp in a mountainous area of Aceh province.