Radical Indonesian cleric Aman Abdurrahman argues against death sentence in court

The heavily guarded South Jakarta district court's main gate as seen from the inside. ST PHOTO: WAHYUDI SOERIAATMADJA
The South Jakarta district court. Radical cleric Aman Abdurrahman will present his rebuttal against the death sentence sought by prosecutors.

JAKARTA - Radical cleric Aman Abdurrahman appeared at a court in Jakarta on Friday (May 25) to issue his rebuttal against prosecutors demanding the death sentence for his role in inciting others to commit terror attacks in Indonesia.

Prosecutors had last Friday (May 18) sought the death sentence for the 46-year-old over charges of inciting various terror attacks, including an attack in Jakarta in 2016 that left four bystanders dead.

"It is a fact that the defendant is an important figurehead (in the militant network) who has... gained respect as he dared to convey different views," prosecutors said.

"Although some of the perpetrators of the various attacks had never met Aman, they read his writings available online and got inspired to launch the terror attacks," they said.

Aman's lawyer Asluddin Hatjani counter-argued on Friday that the prosecutors' demand was not based on facts gathered during the trial. They stressed that none of the witnesses heard had said Aman issued orders for any of the attacks, adding that Aman did not motivate them nor have prior knowledge of the attacks.

"Aman appealed to his followers to migrate to Syria (to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS), but that does not mean that Aman is linked to the bombings (and) attacks in Indonesia," Mr Asluddin told the South Jakarta district court.

Aman spoke after his lawyer presented arguments, claiming he had no role in any of the attacks mentioned by the prosecutors.

He claimed that more than a thousand of his followers had travelled to Syria, although he did not provide details.

The prosecution had also taken into consideration other terror attacks said to be incited by Aman, which took place at the end of 2016 and 2017. These included the Kampung Melayu suicide bombing, the Samarinda church bombing, the Medan police post attack and the Bima police shootings.

The prosecution said that they had arrived at the recommendation of a death penalty after hearing witnesses' testimonies and checking other evidence presented in court during the trial that began on Feb 15.

Prosecutors will respond to Aman's rebuttal on May 30.

Aman also claimed that he disapproved of the recent attacks on three Surabaya churches and a police headquarters that killed 12 innocent people, saying the perpetrators were people who had "ill souls".

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Security was beefed up at the court ahead of the cleric's appearance, with police mobilising snipers and setting up a four-ring defence both inside and outside the building.

"We are (putting in place) maximum security measures consisting of four rings: inside the court house building, surrounding the building, the courthouse's yards and the outside area with a 200m radius," said South Jakarta police chief Indra Jafar.

"All teams are here, including the snipers assigned to the right spots," Colonel Indra told reporters at the courthouse.

As many as 270 personnel were deployed, he added, although he did not say if the figure included plainclothes officers who had also been deployed.

The courthouse's carpark was vacated with all private cars barred on Friday morning. The operator of a petrol station across the road was also told to close operations during the hearing.

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