JAKARTA - The field coordinator in the 2016 Jakarta attack who testified on Tuesday (March 6) in the trial of radical Islamic cleric Aman Abdurrahman said that the cleric had nothing to do with the attack.
Aman, an influential militant, was indicted on Feb 15 with inciting others to commit various terror attacks in Indonesia.
The court heard on Tuesday that Abu Gar was detected meeting Aman - who was serving time in Indonesia's maximum-security Nusakambangan prison - in August, October and November 2015. The attack in Jakarta took place on Jan 14 the following year, which killed four innocent bystanders.
Abu Gar, however, said in court that Aman had nothing to do with the Jakarta attack.
"I went to the Nusakambangan prison to meet Rois, not Aman, although Aman happened to be there as well," Abu Gar, 44, said.
He was referring to Aman's cellmate Iwan Darmawan Muntho alias Rois, who is on death row for his involvement in the 2004 Australian embassy bombing. Abu Gar went into the Nusakambangan prison cell as a visitor along with about 10 other militants.
Abu Gar, whose real name is Saiful Muhtorir, went on to disclose that Rois told him to carry out a mission to attack foreigners in Jakarta whose countries supported an international coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Rois told him that in a corner of the cell, said Abu Gar, without the knowledge of others in the group visiting. Abu Gar declined to take part directly in the attack, and instead, offered to coordinate and recruit for the operation.
When judges pointed out the fact that Abu Gar also communicated with Aman in a Nusakambangan prison cell, Abu Gar said Aman only shared with him news that he claimed he had already known.
Abu Gar said Aman had told him about an appeal to militants around the world by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to carry out "amaliyah" (a mission) on their respective home country if they were not in a capacity to go to Syria to fight along ISIS.
Terror analyst Adhe Bhakti said this confession is instrumental in helping the prosecutors push the case against radical ideologue Aman because it revealed that even though Abu Gar knew about the ISIS appeal, he was moved to launch an attack only after Aman talked to him or made the reiteration of the appeal to him.
During Tuesday's hearing, Abu Gar also admitted he attended sermons by Aman between 2003 and 2004 multiple times - fewer than 10 - and claimed he practically never met Aman again until the Nusakambangan encounter.
"On the religion matters, Aman is a cleric to me, but on the paramilitary skill, I am a trainer and Aman is a student," Abu Gar said, describing a paramilitary training outside Jakarta that he gave Aman along with a group of some 20 other militants.
A veteran militant who has taken part in other conflicts in Indonesia, Abu Gar had travelled to Ambon in Maluku province some time after 1999 to fight in a sectarian conflict against Christians. He also fought in Poso's sectarian conflict. He was arrested in Malang in East Java by Detachment 88 (Densus 88), the elite counter-terrorism unit of the police, during a raid on Feb 19, 2016.
The January 2016 attack was mounted by the "Jakarta Four" of Sunakim alias Afif, Muhammad Ali, Dian Juni Kurniadi and Ahmad Muhazin, with the ISIS later claiming responsibility for it.
Abu Gar admitted in court that he recruited Ali to carry out a suicide bombing. Abu Gar, along with the "Jakarta Four", has been a follower of Aman, investigations have earlier revealed.
Aman faces the death penalty based on an indictment that he had incited others to commit various terror attacks in Indonesia.
In Nov 23, 2016, Abu Gar was sentenced to nine years in jail for helping to fund, recruiting and supplying weapons for the Jan 14, 2016 terror attack in Jakarta.
During Abu Gar's trial in 2016, it was revealed that he gave Ali 200 million rupiah (about S$20,000) as funding for the hit.