Bashir fails to show up for appeal hearing

Abu Bakar Bashir founded regional terrorist network Jemaah Islamiah in the early 1990s.
Abu Bakar Bashir founded regional terrorist network Jemaah Islamiah in the early 1990s.

Jakarta court adjourns session to Dec 1, says jailed radical cleric must show up in person

A South Jakarta Court yesterday refused to hear the appeal of jailed radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir after he failed to show up.

His lawyer Achmad Michdan said that Bashir, 76, the founder of regional terrorist network Jemaah Islamiah (JI), could not make the journey from the high security prison island of Nusakambangan in Central Java to the Indonesian capital because of his ailing health, which he described as deteriorating.

The trip between Jakarta and Cilacap, the nearest town to Nusakambangan, would take 14 hours by land. There is no commercial airport near Cilacap, which is 20 minutes by ferry from the prison island.

Indonesian law requires a defendant to appear in person before a district court to confirm the appeal filed by his lawyer. The district court would then pass on the appeal document to the higher court that the defendant is appealing to.

Under the Indonesian legal system, one can appeal a district court's ruling to a high court, then to the Supreme Court. The first appeal in the Supreme Court is called "kasasi" and the second appeal, or the final legal avenue, is called "peninjauan kembali" or civil review.

Yesterday, Bashir's lawyer attempted to file the civil review appeal challenging the first Supreme Court's appeal ruling in 2012 that raised the Jakarta high court's nine- year-jail sentence for the cleric to 15 years.

"He is very old and is not in a prime physical condition. We propose, if he has to appear before the judges, we hold the trial in Cilacap," Mr Michdan said. He also argued that bringing Bashir to Jakarta would put a burden on the state because stepped-up security would be required.

"Our client is very old and sickly," Mr Michdan added.

The JI network, formed in the early 1990s by Bashir, was detected in 2001. Many of the Singapore JI members studied with him at the Malaysian school he set up in Ulu Tiram, Johor, a 30-minute drive from the Causeway.

JI was behind 20 bombs that went off outside churches across Indonesia, including Batam, on Christmas Eve in 2000.

On Oct 12, 2002, the group launched the largest terror attack this region had seen when two suicide bombers detonated explosives in Bali that killed 202 people and injured dozens of others.

Yesterday, presiding judge Achmad Rivai said it is within the duties of state prosecutors to check Bashir out of the prison and bring him to court. Judge Achmad ordered the state prosecutors to do so for the next hearing.

Prosecutor Ms Mayasari responded by saying that she would need time and would ask an independent medical doctor to examine whether Bashir's health condition bars him from travelling.

Judge Achmad adjourned the hearing to Dec 1.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 18, 2015, with the headline 'Bashir fails to show up for appeal hearing'. Print Edition | Subscribe