Abu Bakar Bashir

June 16, 2011 by staff 

Abu Bakar BashirAbu Bakar Bashir, Indonesian Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, known as the spiritual leader of the radical Islamists who carried out the 2002 bombings in Bali, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for supporting a jihadist training camp discovered last year.

Conviction of Abu Bakar Bashir, for incitement to t*rror*sm after two failed attempts in the last eight years to link him to terrorist activities, including a conviction that was overturned later in the Bali bombings that left 202 people dead.

The sentence against Bashir, now 72, suggests continuous Indonesia resolve to address their extremist movement.

The verdict was announced amid high security in a court in Jakarta, where hundreds of followers of Bashir met. About 3,200 police and soldiers secured the area after bomb threats.

Bashir, who denies involvement in t*rror*sm, rejected the verdict and his lawyer said he would appeal. “This verdict ignores the law and Islamic law is based on cheating, it is forbidden for me to accept,” said Bashir.

The aging cleric has acted as a powerful symbol for radical Islam in Indonesia and, although not involved in operational terrorist attacks, is considered by experts to provide the crucial ideological sanction for violent extremism.

Prosecutors said Bashir provide crucial support for jihadist training camp in early 2010 discovered in western Aceh province, which brought together men of almost every known extremist groups in Indonesia. The militants who allegedly intended to carry out attacks against foreigners and the killing of moderate Muslim leaders like the president of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Bashir was convicted of inciting t*rror*sm in connection with the camp in the jungle. However, he was acquitted of a charge of funding terrorist activities, the panel of judges, saying there was insufficient evidence to prove Bashir knew money raised was used to buy weapons for the training camp.

Activists detained during the trial testified that Bashir watched a video of the Aceh military training and received written reports intended to assure that all funds he had raised were being used for the struggle to build an Islamic state.

Bashir denied involvement in the field, but has repeatedly defended it as legal in Islam. He told reporters before the verdict that the trial was an attempt by the U.S. and Australia “to remove me from Indonesia.”

Jemaah Islamiyah, the radical group co-founded by Bashir, the thrust of Indonesia at the forefront of the fight against t*rror*sm with the 2002 bombings in Bali that killed 202 people, many Australians and Americans.

Since then, the government’s campaign against t*rror*sm has achieved notable successes. Key radicals have been killed, hundreds of foot soldiers detained, and the ability of violent extremist groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah to attack Western targets and the government has been interrupted.

The ruling is “an indication of how strong government commitment to Indonesia remains in terms of prosecution of t*rror*sm in open trials and through the effective implementation of the law,” said Sidney Jones, an expert on Southeast Asia t*rror*sm the International Crisis Group, an NGO that investigates the conflict. “But it has a direct impact on the strength or weakness of the terrorist threat. Most people we see now are assets that operate in small groups without the guidance of a leader like Bashir.”

The field of Aceh was raided in February 2010, prompting more than 120 arrests.

Some experts say the organizers of the camp were conceived as a vehicle for the radicalization of the population of Aceh and in the nucleus of an Islamic state in the future. Despite the failure of the field, which may have provided militants with experience that will help future attempts to bring militant groups under one umbrella.

In his summary trial, the presiding judge Swantoro Herry said the militants were arrested in the raids said they learned to use weapons, map reading and other aspects of military training camp.

Prosecutors had said Bashir raised about 1bn Indonesian rupiah (and 120 800), which was used to purchase weapons, ammunition and jihadi training equipment.

Bashir has spent time in prison before. He was arrested almost immediately after the Bali bombing, but prosecutors could not prove a series of charges related to t*rror*sm and reducing their four years in prison and 18 months for immigration violations.

Shortly after his release, he was arrested and sentenced to two and a half, this time for inciting the Bali bombings, a charge that was overturned on appeal. He was released in 2006.

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