Radical Indonesian cleric charged over 2016 Jakarta terror attack, faces death penalty

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Aman Abdurrahman arrives at the South Jakarta district court at 8.30am local time. He is escorted to the court lock-up. ST PHOTO: WAHYUDI SOERIAATMADJA

JAKARTA - Radical Islamic cleric Aman Abdurrahman faces the death penalty after being charged on Thursday (Feb 15) with inciting others to commit various terror attacks in Indonesia, including an attack in Jakarta in 2016 that left four bystanders dead.

"The defendant incited others to commit various terror acts," Prosecutor Anita Dewayani told reporters. She was referring to the Jakarta attack in January 2016 and incidents that took place in end 2016 and 2017 - the Kampung Melayu suicide bombing, Samarinda church bombing, Medan police post attack, and the Bima police shootings.

At 8.30am local time (9.30 am, Singapore time) on Thursday, Aman, 46, arrived at the South Jakarta District court guarded by armed anti-terror officers. As he walked to the court lock-up, he smiled briefly when The Straits Times asked him how he was doing.

In court on Thursday, Ms Anita said Aman had often, while preaching in places such as Jakarta or Surabaya, described democracy as "syirik", or idolatry, and argued that Muslims had a duty to free themselves from this system and attack representatives of the state like the police.

Aman told the court he did not wish to appoint a lawyer. Judges said the court will assign a lawyer for him as necessitated by law for any defendant facing more than 15 years in jail. But Aman said he would not sign any mandate paper to appoint a lawyer.

In the next hearing scheduled for Feb 23, prosecutors will bring in witnesses to support the case against Aman. The trial will thereafter be held twice a week, every Tuesday and Friday.

Aman had the chance to rebut the charges against him at the next hearing on Feb 23, but opted to not use such right.

Police said earlier that Aman gave the directive for the Jakarta attack and also supported and guided it from behind bars.

The cleric had allegedly ordered his followers to mount the strike from prison, where he was serving a nine-year jail term for funding a Jemaah Islamiah paramilitary training camp in Aceh that police raided in 2010. During an impromptu check, the authorities found several mobile phones concealed inside Aman's cell following the attack on Jan 14, 2016.

He was helped by cellmate Iwan Darmawan Muntho, who goes by the alias Rois.

Aman and Rois were then moved to isolation cells and barred from meeting guests other than close relatives. Rois is on death row for his part in the 2004 bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta.

Aman's indictment comes after a Jakarta court last week sentenced hardened terrorist Suryadi Mas'ud to 10 years' jail for procuring firearms in the Philippines ahead of the 2016 Jakarta attack.

The 2016 terror attack in Jakarta, which unfolded in the heart of Indonesia's capital where the popular Sarinah mall is located, is the first terror attack on Indonesian soil since the 2009 twin bombings at the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in the city, which left seven dead and 50 injured, including a number of foreigners.

In the 2016 incident, two of four attackers blew themselves up in what appeared to be a coordinated suicide bomb attack just before lunch hour. One did so at a Starbucks cafe, while the other blew himself up at a police post. The two other attackers were then gunned down by police at close range.

On Nov 14, 2016, four people, including children, were hurt after two militants threw a low-grade home bomb into a church in Samarinda, East Kalimantan.

In May last year, three policemen were killed in the Kampung Melayu twin suicide bombings in east Jakarta.

A month later in June, two terrorists killed a police officer on duty and burnt a police post in Medan, North Sumatra.

And in Bima in Nusa Tenggara Barat last September, two policemen were shot and injured by militants, in two separate incidents, as they were taking their kids to their school.

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