Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Indonesian Terrorism

Abu Bakar Ba’asyir stands accused of terrorism for the fourth time. The prosecution is sure that he will not escape on this occasion.

No Way Out?

Abu Bakar Ba’asyir handed three sheets of paper to his defense team on Wednesday last week. They contained Ba’asyir’s denial of all the allegations against him. The leader of the Al-Mukmin Islamic boarding school in Ngruki, Sukoharjo, had spent the previous week working on it, and planned to read it out himself in court. “We will use some of it in our rebuttals,” explained Ba’asyir’s lawyer, Ahmad Michdan, a member of the Muslim Defense

Team (TPM). Ba’asyir is now being detained in the Criminal Investigation Division’s detention cells at National Police HQ. Ba’asyir has been on trial for the past two weeks in the South Jakarta District Court. The 72-year-old cleric stands accused of a number of serious offenses, including organizing a paramilitary training camp in Pegunungan Jantho, Greater Aceh. He is also charged with being behind the robbery of a Bank CIMB branch in Medan last August that left a policeman dead. Ba’asyir was nabbed by police last August in Ciamis, shortly before the Medan bank raid.

Last Monday, the prosecution read out its 93-page indictment, accusing Ba’asyir of breaching seven articles of the Antiterrorism Law. In essence, he stands accused of planning acts of terrorism, encouraging others to engage in terrorism, and aiding and abetting terrorists. “He is facing the death sentence,” lead prosecutor Andi Muhammad Taufik told Tempo. According to the prosecution, Ba’asyir had amassed some Rp1 billion to finance the terrorist training camp in Jantho. Part of the money was used to buy dozens of rifles, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. The money was gathered for Ba’asyir by Ubaidillah (Ubaid), alias Luthfi Haidaroh.

Ubaid himself has spent time behind bars for aiding notorious terrorist Noordin M. Top. He is now on trial in the West Jakarta District Court on charges of fundraising for purposes of terrorism on behalf of Ba’asyir. “Ubaid said that half of the money was used to pay for the training camp in Jantho,” Ashluddin Hayani, Ubaid’s lawyer, told Tempo. Ba’asyir is accused of having used Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid as a front for his fundraising activities. This is the third radical organization to have been established by Ba’asyir, after Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI). Like these, Ba’asyir also occupies the position of ‘emir’ in his new outfit.

Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid is said to have been instrumental in bringing together former ‘alumni’ of the Hudaibiyah terrorist training camp in the southern Philippines, including Abu Tholut, Dulmatin, and Toni Togar. Dulmatin was shot dead by the National Police elite antiterrorist unit Special Detachment 88 during a raid in Pamulang last March. “Ba’asyir instructed Dulmatin and Tholut to organize the training camp,” prosecutor Andi said.

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This is far from the first time that Ba’asyir has found himself on trial on terrorist-related charges. In 1983, he, along with Abdullah Sungkar, was arrested and thrown into jail for refusing to accept Pancasila as the state ideology. The pair then fled to Malaysia, where they founded Jemaah Islamiyah. When his case was reopened in 2002, he escaped conviction as the Subversion Law had been repealed by that stage. Michdan’s take on this? “Ustad Ba’asyir was granted amnesty by the government.” In 2002, Ba’asyir was arrested again on suspicion of involvement in the bloody 2001 Bali bombings, or what has become known as the ‘Bali Bombings I.’ He was sentenced to two years in jail, but on immigration charges, rather than for involvement in the Bali outrages. Ba’asyir was arrested for a third time in 2006 for involvement in the ‘Bali Bombings II.’ But once again he avoided conviction on terrorism charges after a Supreme Court review found he was only guilty of breaking the criminal law.

Ba’asyir’s three acquittals of involvement in terrorism will be used as a potent weapon against the prosecution’s accusations. “This is the fourth attempt to convict him of terrorism-related offenses, and it’s equally groundless,” argued Michdan. “He has never been proved to have anything to do with terrorism.” However, prosecutor Andi insisted that this time was different. “He’s not going to get away with it this time around,” he said. During the six-month investigation, Ba’asyir has said little, and refused to answer investigators’ questions. According to Andi, his lack of cooperation would not help him. “We have more than enough evidence and witnesses to prove his involvement in terrorism,” said Andi.

The prosecution witnesses include Ubaid, Syarif Usman, and Haryadi Usman. Ubaid and Haryadi are themselves currently on trial for arranging funding for the Jantho camp. The prosecution believes that they will admit collecting the money on Ba’asyir’s orders. The prosecution will also present two other key witnesses, Pamriayanti and Anton Sujarwo, both of whom attended the Jantho camp, participated in the Bank CIMB heist in Medan, and were involved in the attack on a police station in Hamparan Perak, Deli Serdang. “They have admitted being ordered by Ba’asyir to carry out robberies to raise funds, “said Andi. Other prosecution evidence consists of video recordings of military training underway in Jantho. According to Andi, Ubaid had admitted making the videos on the instructions of Ba’asyir. They were to be shown to donors, who included Syarif and Haryadi, to convince them that their money was being put to ‘good use.’ The prosecution also has in its possession a video of Ba’asyir enjoying watching a video of the training. “These videos on their own are enough to convict him,” said Andi.

Andi also said that Ba’asyir kept a close eye on the progress of the Aceh training. This was shown by records of phone calls between Ba’asyir and Ubaid. “This proves that he was closely monitoring what was going on there,” Andi said. In addition, the prosecution also has records of calls between Ubaid and the leaders of the Jantho camp, includingDulmatin. Ba’asyir has vehemently denied all the charges, and claimed that he only heard about the training from others and from television news reports. In the defense statement he gave to his defense lawyers, he stated that his arrest and the entire Jantho camp affair had been engineered by Detachment 88. “I also don’t know Dulmatin,” Ba’asyir said.

In his defense statement, Ba’asyir also purports to explain the role played by Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid. He claims that it has nothing to do with terrorism, and that it is solely concerned with disseminating and obeying the commands of Allah. For his part, Michdan readily admitted that Ba’asyir had engaged in fundraising through Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid, but said that this was intended solely for religious propagation purposes and charitable works, such as the purchase of an ambulance to serve the poor. “Part of the money was also donated to the poor,” said Michdan. Michdan also said that the Jantho training camp was an initiative of Dulmatin. Ba’asyir, he said, had only discovered what was going on through television reports. “Someone also told Ba’asyir that the training was for volunteers intending to wage jihad in Palestine,” Michdan added.

According to Michdan, Ba’asyir approved of the training as it constituted “i’dad,” or physical training to enable Muslims to stand up to the enemies of Islam, although he did not approve of the use of firearms. “The use of firearms is illegal,” Michdan quoted Ba’asyir as saying.

Good Works and Guns

The prosecution alleges that sometime between March 2009 and March 2010, a number of persons, including Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, under the pretext of fundraising for charitable purposes and good works, collected funds that were in reality to be used for financing a jihadist campaign, and that these funds were delivered to Ubaid on the orders of Ba’asyir. The aging cleric adamantly denies the allegations and claims he has never had anything to do with terrorism.

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