Cleric accused of masterminding Jakarta attack goes on trial

Cleric accused of masterminding Jakarta attack goes on trial

Islamic cleric Aman Abdurrahman is seen during trial in Jakarta, Indonesia February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Beawiharta

JAKARTA: A jailed Indonesian cleric accused of being the mastermind of a deadly 2016 terror attack in Jakarta went on trial Thursday (Feb 23) and faces a possible death sentence if convicted.

Aman Abdurrahman is charged with terrorism-related offences over the attack, claimed by the Islamic State group, that killed four bystanders in a busy downtown neighbourhood. 

Four militants died after they were shot or blew themselves up.

The handcuffed cleric arrived at a Jakarta court in an orange vest worn by criminal suspects, escorted by armed guards.

According to the indictment, Aman was charged for "inciting others to commit a criminal act of terrorism by deliberately using violence or threat of violence, causing an atmosphere of terror or fear of a widespread casualties, by seizing independence or loss of life or property of another person, or to cause damage or destruction of the object - strategic or environmental vital objects or public facilities or international facilities".

After the hearing at the South Jakarta District Court, public prosecutor Anita Dewayani told journalists that Aman is facing a maximum sentence of the death penalty.

As she read the indictment, Anita said that Aman “often preached teachings or religious studies in several places and cities in Indonesia" such as Jakarta, Surabaya, Lamongan, Balikpapan and Samarinda. 

He taught with materials taken from a book he wrote, she added. 

According to Anita, Aman would also say that democracy can “undo a man’s religion” as the law was “made by man”. Aman would spread his teachings through MP3 recordings.

In a copy of the indictment seen by Channel NewsAsia, Aman is stated to have formed Jemaah Anshorut Daulah (JAD), a homegrown militant network which functioned as an “umbrella” for supporters of an Islamic caliphate.

Prosecutors told the court that in 2015, Aman urged members of JAD to emulate the attacks in Paris and carry out orders of the Islamic State to commit “jihad”. He would communicate with his supporters while in prison through visitors and video calls.

Aman underwent his first trial without any legal counsel and refused legal aid, after judges said the court will assign a lawyer for him as required for any defendant facing a sentence of more than 15 years in prison.

According to local reports, Aman was first imprisoned in 2005. At that time he was sentenced to seven years in jail for possession of explosives. 

A year earlier he was arrested after a bomb exploded at his home in the area of ​​Cimanggis, Depok, West Java. 

In 2009, he was sentenced to nine years in prison for allegedly financing the training of terror groups in Jantho, Aceh province. 

The trial will continue on Feb 23, with an agenda to examine the witnesses.

Source: CNA/AFP/am

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