Indonesia braces for verdict in cleric terror case

AP News
Posted: Jun 15, 2011 7:15 AM
Indonesia braces for verdict in cleric terror case

Indonesia's capital will be secured by more than 3,000 police and soldiers for the verdict Thursday in the terrorism trial of radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, officials said.

Bashir is accused of helping to organize and fund a jihadi training camp in westernmost Aceh province that involved members of almost every known Indonesian extremist group.

If found guilty, he faces up to life in prison. Bashir, 72, denies involvement with the training camp but repeatedly defends it as legal under Islam.

"He is ready to face the heaviest punishment though, because he believes the verdict is deliberately designed to stop his dakwah (religious outreach)," Bashir's spokesman Hasyim Adbullah said Wednesday.

Jakarta police chief Sutarman said nearly 3,200 security personnel including 335 soldiers will secure the court and surrounding area.

Threats of a bombing campaign in 36 locations across Indonesia to coincide with the verdict have been spread by Twitter and text messages.

Judges in the case also received the bomb threat text messages, said Ida Bagus Dwiyantara, a spokesman for the district court in south Jakarta, where the verdict will be announced.

The Aceh camp was raided in February last year resulting in the arrests of more than 120 suspected terrorists over several months. They allegedly planned attacks on foreigners and assassinations of moderate Muslim leaders such as Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Some terrorism experts say the camp's organizers envisaged it as a vehicle for radicalizing the Acehnese people and as the nucleus of a future Islamic state. Despite the camp's failure, it may have provided lessons that will help future attempts to bring extremist groups together under one umbrella.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, was thrust into the front lines of the battle against terrorism by the 2002 bombings on the tourist island of Bali that killed 202 people, mostly foreigners.

Since then, the government has had some notable successes, killing key terrorist leaders, arresting hundreds of foot soldiers, and limiting the capacity of violent extremist groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah to strike at government and Western targets within Indonesia.

But prisons are proving to be a failing in Indonesia's counter-terrorism strategy with some released militants rejoining their networks and commiting new acts of terror. Ordinary prisoners, meanwhile, are at risk of being radicalized by imprisoned extremists.

It's not the first time Bashir has faced terrorism charges or spent time in detention.

He was arrested almost immediately after the Bali bombings, but prosecutors were unable to prove a string of terrorism-related allegations and reduced his four-year prison sentence to 18 months for immigration violations.

Soon after his release, he was re-arrested and sentenced to 2 1/2 years, this time for inciting the Bali blasts, a charge that was overturned on appeal. He was freed in 2006.