JAKARTA/WASHINGTON - A court in the capital Jakarta on Friday sentenced an Indonesian Islamist leader to death for inciting terrorist attacks in support of the Islamic State (IS).
The South Jakarta District Court ruled that the cleric, Aman Abdurrahman —also known as Oman Rochman — masterminded a series of five deadly attacks in the country from prison, including the January 2016 suicide bombing at a Starbucks in Jakarta that killed four civilians and wounded 25 others.
'De facto' leader
Abdurrahman is the leader of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), which was founded in 2015 and designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. last year for its connections to IS. He was imprisoned in 2004 for bomb-making and terror activities, and again in 2011 for helping set up a jihadi training camp in Aceh province.
According to the U.S. Treasury Department, Abdurrahman pledged allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in early 2014 and served as the group's main translator, disseminating information online from jail, including IS's call for Muslims to kill Westerners indiscriminately. He acted as "de facto" leader of IS supporters in Indonesia and instructed associates to travel to Syria to join the IS jihadists.
A VOA reporter who was present at the court ruling Friday said when presiding Judge Akhmad Jaini started reading out the sentence, Abdurrahman, who has plead not guilty, immediately stood up and then lay prostrate on the courtroom floor. She said hundreds of security forces members could be seen guarding the courthouse during the reading of the verdict.
The court has yet to set a date for his planned capital punishment, which is execution by firing squad. His government-appointed lawyer, Asludin Hajrani, told reporters the verdict could be appealed and he will consult with his client to decide whether to exercise that right.
Trial without facts?
The lawyer said the trial presented no facts that confirmed Abdurrahman's direct involvement in terror attacks, including the 2016 Jakarta bombings.
"The only thing that can connect Abdurrahman with the Thamrin bombing [in Jakarta] and the other incidents is a message he delivered to Abu Gar, who coordinated and funded the bombing. That message was not from Abdurrahman himself, but actually was from the IS spokesman Sheikh Adnani to carry out operations similar to the ones in France. That is all, other comments are of his teachings that they [judges] don't agree with, like not recognizing that the state of Indonesia exists."
The world's largest Muslim-majority nation, Indonesia has witnessed a rise in jihadi extremism over the last several years along with occasional terrorist attacks in different parts of the country.
In 2002, al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiah conducted a string of bombings in the tourist island of Bali that killed more than 200 people.
More recently, the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and the Maute group in neighboring Philippines, have inspired an estimated 700 Indonesians to travel to Syria to join the fighting. Indonesian officials are afraid many of these people ultimately could return home after leaving the Syrian battlefield.
Last month, a wave of IS-inspired suicide bombings in Surabaya city by three families—including their young children—killed at least 26 people. Following the attacks, the Indonesian parliament revised the country's terror laws to introduce much tougher regulations, including the increase of detention periods and the involvement of the military in counterterrorism operations.