Abu Bakar Bashir tells court that under Islamic law training fighters is acceptable but he denies any involvement in it.
|Bashir is considered leader of a movement seeking to establish a Muslim caliphate across Southeast Asia [EPA]|
Indonesia’s state prosecutors have sought life in jail for Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir for allegedly setting up and helping finance a paramilitary training camp in Aceh.
The threat of execution was evaded after prosecutors said the charges of providing firearms and explosives for terrorist acts, for which the 72-year-old preacher could have faced the death penalty, “could not be proven convincingly”.
“We wish judges to decide that Abu Bakar Bashir has been proven guilty of planning and or influencing others to provide money for an act that he would suspect would be used partly or fully for terrorism acts,” prosecutor Andi Muhammad Taufik said.
Bashir denies any involvement in terrorism. The verdict is not due for several weeks.
Monday’s trial in Jakarta was held amid tight security, with hundreds of supporters of the cleric waiting to hear if prosecutors would seek the death penalty.
About 2,500 police backed by armoured vehicles surrounded the Jakarta courtroom as Bashir appeared to face the sentencing recommendations, and members of the public were searched for hidden weapons or bombs as they entered the court.
‘Bin Laden of Indonesia’
Bashir is officially the caretaker of an Islamic boarding school on Java island, but has long been considered the spiritual leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah movement, which seeks to establish a Muslim caliphate across Southeast Asia.
Before court proceedings started, Bashir praised the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden who was killed in a US raid in Pakistan last week.
Bin Laden was a “warrior” who would be rewarded in heaven for the “great sacrifices” he made for Islam,
Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen, reporting from the court on Monday, said Bashir was described by some as the “Osama bin Laden of Indonesia”.
“He’s seen as the godfather of the movement that has been connected to bomb attacks in Indonesia for the past 10 years,” she said.
“There’s a lot at stake for the authorities to finally have him convicted on terror charges, something they have failed to do twice for the past eight years.”
Bashir was found not guilty of terror offences in two previous trials that attempted to link him to the 2002 Bali bombings that left more than 200 people dead.
The so-called Al-Qaeda in Aceh group was planning Mumbai-style attacks using squads of suicide gunmen against Westerners, police and political leaders including Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia’s president, according to police.
Its operations leader, Indonesian bomb maker Dulmatin, was killed by police in March last year. Scores of other members of the group have been killed or captured.