By Brianne Yantz
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania
JAKARTA, Indonesia – Radical Islamic cleric, Abu Bakar Bashir, was sentenced last Thursday for his support of a terror training camp uncovered in 2010 in the Aceh province of northern Sumatra. Although prosecutors sought life imprisonment, the court handed down a sentence of fifteen years.
- Radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir voicing his opposition to the guilty verdict. (Photo courtesy of The Jakarta Globe)
While Bashir, now 72, was found guilty of inciting terrorism, he was acquitted on the charge of funding terrorist activities. According to The Washington Post, the judges believed the evidence was not substantial enough to establish that Bashir knew the money he had raised went towards purchasing guns for the training camp.
Still, Bashir has refused to accept the ruling. The Jakarta Globe reported that immediately after the verdict was read Bashir declared “this verdict is unfair because this is based on laws that are made by infidels, not based on sharia. It is haram (forbidden) for me to accept the ruling.” His lawyers immediately stated that an appeal would be filed.
This is the third time in the past eight years that Bashir has been charged with activities connected to terrorism; the first two attempts to convict were ultimately unsuccessful. In 2005, Bashir had been convicted of conspiracy over the 2002 Bali bomb attacks, which killed over 200 people. Yet after serving only 26 months, Bashir’s conviction was overturned.
Anti-terror police detained Bashir, who has been arrested repeatedly over the years, in August 2010 for his connection to the training camp. The training camp brought together radical militants from several jihadi groups. It was believed they were planning a violent overthrow of the government and the mass murder of moderate Muslims and non-Muslim peoples. Although Bashir denied his involvement with the camp, he stated that it was legal under the laws of Islam.
According to the BBC News report, Bashir has repeatedly stated that the allegations against him were “engineered by America.” For years both the United States and Australia have been urging the Indonesian authorities to take a harder stance against Bashir. However, the Indonesian authorities were hesitant to do so for fear of antagonizing Islamic radicals. Last Thursday’s ruling indicates a new determination to tackle the extremist movement within Indonesia.
More than 3,000-armed police were sent to the courthouse where hundreds of Bashir’s supporters were gathered after authorities were alerted to bomb scares and threats of violence. Although supporters cried foul when the guilty sentence was handed down, the crowd dispersed peacefully.
Bashir has been a part of the radical Islamic movement in Indonesia for over four decades. He has been jailed and released on numerous occasions.
For more information, please see:
BBC News – Indonesia jails cleric Abu Bakar Ba’asyir for 15 years – June 16, 2011
The Jakarta Globe – Bashir Sentenced to 15 Years – June 16, 2011
NY Times – Indonesia Sentences Radical Cleric to 15 Years – June 16, 2011
Radio New Zealand – Indonesian militant cleric Abu Bakar Bashir has been found guilty of terrorism charges and jailed for 15 years – June 16, 2011
The Washington Post – Spiritual leader of Bali bombers gets 15 years on terror charge linked to new militant camp – June 16, 2011