Radical cleric claims he had no role in terror attacks

Radical cleric Aman Abdurrahman at a South Jakarta district court yesterday. Security was beefed up ahead of the trial, with police mobilising snipers and setting up a four-ring defence both inside and outside the building.
Radical cleric Aman Abdurrahman at a South Jakarta district court yesterday. Security was beefed up ahead of the trial, with police mobilising snipers and setting up a four-ring defence both inside and outside the building.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA • Radical cleric Aman Abdurrahman appeared in court in Jakarta yesterday to put his side of a case in which prosecutors have demanded the death sentence for his role in inciting others to commit terror attacks in Indonesia, including the one in Jakarta in 2016 which 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 told the court last Friday.

"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 added.

But Aman's lawyer, Mr Asluddin Hatjani, yesterday refuted the claims, saying that the prosecutors' demand was not based on facts gathered during the trial. His lawyer said none of the witnesses had said that Aman issued orders for any of the attacks or that he had motivated them or had 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 he is linked to the bombings (and) attacks in Indonesia," Mr Asluddin told the South Jakarta district court.

Aman spoke after his lawyer presented his arguments, claiming again that 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 following his appeals.

The prosecution had also taken into consideration other terror attacks said to have been incited by Aman, including the Kampung Melayu suicide bombing, the Samarinda church bombing, the Medan police post attack and the Bima police shootings.

The prosecution told the court it was recommending the death penalty because of the testimonies of witnesses as well as other evidence presented in court during the trial, which began on Feb 15.

The prosecutors will respond to Aman's rebuttal on May 30.

There is likely to be one more hearing at most before judges issue their verdict.

Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), a terror network founded by Aman, has also been held responsible for the recent attacks on three churches in Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city, as well as on its police headquarters. The attacks left 12 people dead.

But the radical cleric claimed in court yesterday that he disapproved of the recent attacks, saying the perpetrators were people who had "ill souls".

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

Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2018, with the headline 'Radical cleric claims he had no role in terror attacks'. Print Edition | Subscribe