Indonesian court sentences activist bombmaker to life in prison

An Indonesian court on Wednesday sentenced a bomb maker from the militant group Jemaah Islamiyah to life in prison for his involvement in a series of deadly bombings in central Sulawesi province in the mid-2000s.

The 42-year-old defendant Taufiq Bulaga (also known as Upik Lawanga), a top leader of JI, a regional militant network affiliated with al-Qaeda, was arrested at the end of the year last after being on the run for 14 years. Indonesian authorities have accused JI of carrying out the Bali bombings in 2002 – the country’s deadliest terrorist attack to date – as well as the attacks on hotels in Jakarta in the 2000s, among other atrocities.

East Jakarta District Court judges found Taufiq guilty of assembling bombs used in three terrorist attacks that killed 29 people in the Poso regency, which was the scene of Islamic-Christian violence at the turn of the century .

“The actions of the accused were heinous and caused deep wounds to the families of the deceased victims and trauma to the injured victims,” ​​Chief Justice Sutikna said.

Taufiq said he would appeal.

Attacks linked to him included a bomb that exploded in Poso Central Market on November 13, 2004, killing six people.

The following year, a bomb attack in the Tentena market killed 22 people. This was followed by another bombing, which killed one person in Poso in 2006.

Police initially said Taufiq was involved in the 2002 and 2005 bombings, the murder of three schoolgirls in Poso in 2005, and the suicide bombings of the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in 2009, but these were not mentioned in the indictment.

Taufiq was arrested in Lampung province in November 2020.

Another JI activist, Aris Sumarsono, also known as Zulkarnaen, is tried by the same court for allegedly lodging Taufiq in Lampung.

Police said Zulkarnaen had founded a task force whose members launched the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people.

Moh Adhe Bhakti, terrorism analyst at the Center for Radicalism and Deradicalization Studies (PAKAR), said the JI remained a powerful security threat despite the arrest of several of its operatives, including Taufiq.

JI still has other members who are skilled in bomb making, through their participation in military training in places like Afghanistan, southern Philippines and Syria.

“They maintained a fighting force, among other things, sending personnel to Syria,” Adhe told BenarNews.

“Taufiq was trained by these elders (Afghans). He’s just one of the students. You can imagine the skills of the people who trained him, ”Adhe said.

Last month, a senior official with the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) said that JI militants had tried to infiltrate the Indonesian military, police and ministries for more than a decade.

In November, police arrested three people suspected of involvement in the OMC, including a senior official from the semi-official Indonesian Council of Ulemas.

“Because Para Wijayanto took the lead [in 2008], JI underwent a reorganization and changed tactics by infiltrating state institutions and mass organizations, ”Ahmad Nurwakhid, BNPT prevention assistant at the time, told BenarNews.

The official was referring to the emir or head of JI, who was arrested in 2019 and later sentenced to seven years in prison last year for leading the banned organization.

“It is very likely that they [have tried to infiltrate] other religious organizations such as Muhammadiyah, NU [Nahdlatul Ulama], NGOs, sports groups and cycling groups, ”Nurwakhid said. Muhammadiyah and NU are moderate Islamic groups in Indonesia, the most populous predominantly Muslim nation in the world.

Police have arrested 876 members of the group since the 2002 Bali bombings, police said in October. But the number of JI members and supporters is estimated at 10 times as many, with 67 JI-affiliated religious schools suspected of being breeding grounds for activists, they warned.

JI hasn’t staged a major attack here since 2011.

Criminal conspiracy

In a separate session at the East Jakarta District Court on Wednesday, prosecutors indicted a former secretary-general of the now-disbanded Islamic Front of Defenders (FPI) extremist group Munarman with criminal conspiracy in view of committing acts of terrorism. They allege that he attended an event in 2015 where participants pledged allegiance to the group known as the Islamic State (IS).

A prosecutor said the event took place at the FPI headquarters in Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi province, and was disguised as a religious rally by the Front.

“The organizers of the event informed Munarman by telephone that the event was a statement of support for ISIS and the accused replied ‘OK’,” said Enen Saribanon, the prosecutor.

Munarman has denied knowing about the pledge of allegiance, claiming he was invited as a speaker at an unrelated event.

According to the indictment, Munarman first pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2014 during an event organized by a group of students at Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic University in south Tangerang, near Jakarta. .

Munarman’s attorney, Juju Purwantoro, said in September that his client condemned terrorism in several of his speeches and warned people of the danger of radicalism.

A lawyer by training, Munarman formerly headed the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS) and the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation before becoming a spokesperson for the FPI.

Munarman could face a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted under the country’s anti-terrorism laws.

Munarman said he opposed the indictment.

“There are so many typographical and terminological errors in the indictment,” Munarman told the court.

The Indonesian government officially banned the FPI last year after accusing the group of breaking the law and disrupting peace and security. In addition, 35 members and former members were convicted of terrorism charges.

The decision to ban the organization was taken jointly by Indonesia’s ministers of interior, law and communications, chiefs of police and counterterrorism, and the attorney general.

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