Lawyers for ISIS suspect argue against jail

LAWYERS for the first Indonesian to be tried for joining the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and spreading its violent ideology said the purpose of their client's trip to Syria in 2013 was to check on how things were there and meet fellow Muslims he claimed were oppressed.

They were responding to the demand of state prosecutors who had asked a Central Jakarta court earlier this month to sentence radical cleric Afief Abdul Madjid, 63, to eight years' jail.

The three-judge panel is expected to hand down its verdict next Monday.

Afief was indicted under the 2003 anti-terrorism law that can punish anyone for creating public fear, conspiring to do terror activity or funding a terror activity.

Mr Ahmad Michdan, one of his lawyers, also said his client did not fund a paramilitary training camp in Aceh and that there was neither evidence nor witness testimony to support this.

He argued that Afief had given 25 million rupiah (S$2,500) to a man named Ubaid with instructions to use it to help Palestine and the poor. Ubaid was later found guilty of helping to raise funds for the training camp.

Ubaid was an assistant to jailed cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of terrorist network Jemaah Islamiah (JI).

Said Mr Ahmad: "Enforcing the law does not mean forcing the law on someone. The law can punish anyone if there is evidence."

In their final submission on June 8, prosecutors said Afief had travelled to Ladzikiyah in Syria in December 2013 to take part in ISIS military training. On his return in January, he visited Bashir in prison. In July, he was a key preacher at a forum in Solo where he spread ISIS ideology.

One of the prosecutors, Mr Suroyo, who goes by one name, told The Straits Times that Afief was a senior figure in JI. He said Afief had been jailed without trial in the 1980s under subversion laws and he later joined Bashir who was in exile in Malaysia.

"You are talking about a very senior and influential figure whose words are listened to by many in militant networks here in Indonesia," Mr Adhe Bhakti, a researcher at the Centre for Radicalism and Deradicalisation Studies, told The Straits Times.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2015, with the headline 'Lawyers for ISIS suspect argue against jail'. Print Edition | Subscribe