Cleric sentenced to death had a hand in several terror attacks

Islamic cleric Aman Abdurrahman being surrounded by security personnel after the verdict was announced yesterday in a courtroom in Jakarta. Aman is the leader of local extremist network Jemaah Ansharut Daulah, and is considered the de facto head of a
Islamic cleric Aman Abdurrahman being surrounded by security personnel after the verdict was announced yesterday in a courtroom in Jakarta. Aman is the leader of local extremist network Jemaah Ansharut Daulah, and is considered the de facto head of all ISIS supporters in Indonesia. PHOTO: REUTERS

Aman spread his views widely online and met his followers even while he was in prison

Radical cleric Aman Abdurrahman was yesterday sentenced to death for his role in inciting others to commit terror attacks in Indonesia.

The five-judge panel ruled that the 46-year-old had, from within his jail cell, planned and incited others to commit terror acts.

"The defendant has either met his followers face to face or distributed his write-ups widely on the Internet, MP3 clips as well as (live) audio calls," presiding judge Akhmad Jaini told the courtroom.

Prosecutors had sought the death sentence for Aman, who had been charged with inciting various terror attacks, including a gun and suicide-bomb attack in Jakarta in 2016 that left four bystanders dead.

The 2016 terror attack was the first claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in South-east Asia.

Aman is the leader of local extremist network Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), and is considered the de facto head of all ISIS supporters in Indonesia.

He has been behind bars since 2010, when he was jailed for nine years for running a paramilitary training camp in Aceh for the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terrorist network. JI was behind the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.

Although some of the perpetrators of the various attacks had never met Aman, they read his views online and were inspired to launch the terror attacks, prosecutors had said.

Although some of the perpetrators of the various attacks had never met Aman, they read his views online and were inspired to launch the terror attacks, prosecutors had said.

"The defendant himself admitted that he has loyal followers, he received regular visits (from some of these followers) in jail," Judge Akhmad said, adding that Aman became popular by spreading violent ideology from 2003.

The judges said that Aman must be held responsible for several attacks in 2016 and last year, including one on a church in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, that killed a child and severely injured five other children, the Kampung Melayu bus terminal suicide bombing in Jakarta where three police officers died, the North Sumatra police headquarters attack, and the Bima police shootings in West Nusa Tenggara province.

"All the perpetrators were affiliated with the JAD terror network that was founded by the defendant to support ISIS," the judges added.

Aman bowed and touched his forehead to the floor on hearing the verdict. His lawyer Asluddin Hatjani said he would discuss with his client whether to appeal.

Security was fortified around the courthouse and in the courtroom, with Tempo.co reporting that up to 378 police personnel were deployed, including snipers and heavily armed officers.

Cameras and telecommunication devices were barred from the courtroom to comply with a recent directive from Indonesia's broadcasting agency expressing concerns about terrorist trials being reported live and being used by some quarters to spread violent ideology.

Anti-terror experts such as Mr Adhe Bhakti of the Centre for Radicalism and Deradicalisation Studies (Pakar) appealed to the authorities to increase security and intelligence surveillance to prevent possible repercussions after the verdict, such as revenge attacks by Aman's followers.

"Bear in mind that Aman Abdurrahman is an ideologue. Even his words could move others to commit terror acts. What we have today is the death penalty slapped on that influential person spreading those words," Mr Adhe told The Straits Times.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2018, with the headline 'Cleric sentenced to death had a hand in several terror attacks'. Print Edition | Subscribe