Indonesia hands death sentence to Islamic State-linked cleric for militant attacks

Agustinus Beo Da Costa, Darren Whiteside
JUNE 21, 2018

JAKARTA (Reuters) - An Indonesian court on Friday sentenced to death a cleric linked to Islamic State, for masterminding from his jail cell a string of deadly militant attacks across the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.

The ruling comes as Indonesia struggles to rein in a rising tide of homegrown militancy, inspired in part by the extremist group Islamic State, with parliament approving tougher anti-terrorism laws last month.

Aman Abdurrahman, 46, is considered the ideological leader of Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) - a loose grouping of Islamic State sympathizers in Indonesia.

“The court sentences the defendant to death,” said the judge, Ahmad Zaini, adding that Abdurrahman had been proved guilty of “carrying out terrorism”.

Abdurrahman bowed and touched his forehead to the floor on hearing the verdict, but did not respond to the judge’s query whether he would appeal against the ruling.

He was convicted of planning a 2016 gun-and-bomb attack in the heart of Jakarta, the capital, that killed eight people, including four attackers.

Abdurrahman was also proved to be behind a suicide attack last year that killed three police officers at a Jakarta bus station and the bombing of a church in Samarinda on Borneo island that wounded four children.

He was serving a sentence in a maximum security prison at the time.

Abdurrahman’s defence team told reporters the sentence was “too harsh”.

“He himself does not have the desire to appeal because he does not recognise the court or Indonesian laws,” said Asludin Hatjani, a lawyer for Abdurrahman, adding that the defence team had a week to consider filing an appeal.

Earlier, dozens of masked and heavily armed police officers stood guard as Abdurrahman, handcuffed and wearing an orange prison jacket over a blue shirt and black trousers, was escorted into the South Jakarta courthouse by counter-terrorism officers.

Security experts have raised concerns that a harsh penalty for the cleric could trigger retaliatory attacks by followers.

“The verdict provides moral support for the counter-terrorism community, but it will also make Abdurrahman a martyr to the jihadist community, whether he is executed or allowed to spend years on death row,” Concord Consulting, a risk advisory group based in Jakarta, said in a note.

Suicide bombings last month in Indonesia’s second largest city of Surabaya that killed more than 30 people and were carried out by families with young children, were linked to JAD cells and were the country’s deadliest in nearly two decades.

The U.S. State department says the JAD grouping is a “terrorist” organisation linked to numerous attacks.

Muslims buying from Starbucks will go to hell, says popular preacher

The Jakarta Post
April 28, 2018

A popular preacher is under fire on Twitter for saying Muslims who buy from Starbucks will go to hell.

In a 52-minute video uploaded by Islamic channel Fodamara TV on Youtube, Abdul Somad, the preacher in question, says that Muslims will be thrown into hell if they buy from Starbucks, as the coffee shop openly supports the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

He made the statement when answering a question from a member of the audience on whether Muslims are allowed to buy from a café that supports LGBT rights.

He said: “In the afterlife [...] the angels will ask the [LGBT community], ‘How did [your community] grow so big?’  [The LGBT community] will respond, ‘Because of the donations [given to us]. 'Who gave you the donations?'  'Those who are in heaven.'"

God will pull out those who are in heaven and throw them into hell for donating to Starbucks, he added.

Although the video was uploaded in October 2017, it went viral on Thursday after several Twitter users uploaded snippets of the video on social media and criticized the cleric for being ridiculous.

One of them was Muslim scholar Akhmad Sahal, who said Somad's logic was contradictory as the social media channel that the cleric uses also supports LGBT rights.

“Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, all of them support LGBT rights. Based on his logic, wouldn’t that mean its users will go to hell too?” Sahal said on his Twitter account.

“My penniless fellow, you are free from hell’s torment now,” wrote another Twitter user.

But not everyone agreed that Somad's statement was ridiculous.

“I don’t really get what people are fuming about. As far as I’m concerned, Somad only said what he believes in. Don’t agree with him? Go get your Starbucks and stop watching his videos. Make it easy for yourself. Won’t tell you again,” wrote one user. (dpk/ahw)

Cleric behind bombing in Indonesian capital goes on trial

Associated Press

February 14, 2018

JAKARTA, Indonesia –  A key ideologue for Islamic State militants in Indonesia has gone on trial for ordering a 2016 suicide bombing and gun attack in Jakarta that killed eight people including the four attackers.

The radical cleric, Oman Rohman, popularly known as Aman Abdurrahman, was guarded by counterterrorism police as he waited in a holding cell for the trial to begin Thursday.

Police have described Adburrahman as the main Indonesian translator for IS propaganda and the spiritual leader of Jemaah Anshorut Daulah, a network of almost two dozen Indonesian extremist groups that formed in 2015.

The five-judge panel appointed a lawyer for Adburrahman. He told the court Thursday that he was not appointing a lawyer to defend himself but would not object if the court imposed one.

Top Indonesian Muslim Scholar Says Stop Pretending That Orthodox Islam and Violence Aren't Linked

Marco Stahlhut

Sep 07, 2017

Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, has a constitution that recognizes other major religions, and practices a syncretic form of Islam that draws on not just the faith’s tenets but local spiritual and cultural traditions. As a result, the nation has long been a voice of, and for, moderation in the Islamic world.

Yet Indonesia is not without its radical elements. Though most are on the fringe, they can add up to a significant number given Indonesia’s 260-million population. In the early 2000s, the country was terrorized by Jemaah Islamiyah(JI), a homegrown extremist organization allied with al-Qaeda. JI’s deadliest attack was the 2002 Bali bombing that killed 202 people. While JI has been neutralized, ISIS has claimed responsibility for recent, smaller terrorist incidents in the country and has inspired some Indonesians to fight in Syria — Indonesians who could pose a threat when they return home. The country has also seen the rise of hate groups that preach intolerance and violence against local religious and ethnic minorities, which include Shia and Ahmadiya Muslims.

Among Indonesia’s most influential Islamic leaders is Yahya Cholil Staquf, 51,advocates a modern, moderate Islam. He is general secretary of the Nahdlatul Ulama, which, with about 50 million members, is the country’s biggest Muslim organization. Yahya. This interview, notable for Yahya’s candor, was first published on Aug. 19 in German in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Here are excerpts translated from the original Bahasa Indonesia into English.

Many Western politicians and intellectuals say that Islamist terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. What is your view?

Western politicians should stop pretending that extremism and terrorism have nothing to do with Islam. There is a clear relationship between fundamentalism, terrorism, and the basic assumptions of Islamic orthodoxy. So long as we lack consensus regarding this matter, we cannot gain victory over fundamentalist violence within Islam.

Radical Islamic movements are nothing new. They’ve appeared again and again throughout our own history in Indonesia. The West must stop ascribing any and all discussion of these issues to “Islamophobia.” Or do people want to accuse me — an Islamic scholar — of being an Islamophobe too?

What basic assumptions within traditional Islam are problematic?

The relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims, the relationship of Muslims with the state, and Muslims’ relationship to the prevailing legal system wherever they live … Within the classical tradition, the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims is assumed to be one of segregation and enmity.

Perhaps there were reasons for this during the Middle Ages, when the tenets of Islamic orthodoxy were established, but in today’s world such a doctrine is unreasonable. To the extent that Muslims adhere to this view of Islam, it renders them incapable of living harmoniously and peacefully within the multi-cultural, multi-religious societies of the 21st century.

A Western politician would likely be accused of racism for saying what you just said.

I’m not saying that Islam is the only factor causing Muslim minorities in the West to lead a segregated existence, often isolated from society as a whole. There may be other factors on the part of the host nations, such as racism, which exists everywhere in the world. But traditional Islam — which fosters an attitude of segregation and enmity toward non-Muslims — is an important factor.

And Muslims and the state?

Within the Islamic tradition, the state is a single, universal entity that unites all Muslims under the rule of one man who leads them in opposition to, and conflict with, the non-Muslim world.

So the call by radicals to establish a caliphate, including by ISIS, is not un-Islamic?

No, it is not. [ISIS’s] goal of establishing a global caliphate stands squarely within the orthodox Islamic tradition. But we live in a world of nation-states. Any attempt to create a unified Islamic state in the 21st century can only lead to chaos and violence ... Many Muslims assume there is an established and immutable set of Islamic laws, which are often described as shariah. This assumption is in line with Islamic tradition, but it of course leads to serious conflict with the legal system that exists in secular nation-states.

Any [fundamentalist] view of Islam positing the traditional norms of Islamic jurisprudence as absolute [should] be rejected out of hand as false. State laws [should] have precedence.

How can that be accomplished?

Generations ago, we achieved a de facto consensus in Indonesia that Islamic teachings must be contextualized to reflect the ever-changing circumstances of time and place. The majority of Indonesian Muslims were — and I think still are — of the opinion that the various assumptions embedded within Islamic tradition must be viewed within the historical, political and social context of their emergence in the Middle Ages [in the Middle East] and not as absolute injunctions that must dictate Muslims’ behavior in the present … Which ideological opinions are “correct” is not determined solely by reflection and debate. These are struggles [about who and what is recognized as religiously authoritative]. Political elites in Indonesia routinely employ Islam as a weapon to achieve their worldly objectives.

Is it so elsewhere too?

Too many Muslims view civilization, and the peaceful co-existence of people of different faiths, as something they must combat. Many Europeans can sense this attitude among Muslims.

There’s a growing dissatisfaction in the West with respect to Muslim minorities, a growing fear of Islam. In this sense, some Western friends of mine are “Islamophobic.” They’re afraid of Islam. To be honest, I understand their fear … The West cannot force Muslims to adopt a moderate interpretation of Islam. But Western politicians should stop telling us that fundamentalism and violence have nothing to do with traditional Islam. That is simply wrong.

They don’t want to foster division in their societies between Muslims and non-Muslims, nor contribute to intolerance against Muslims.

I share this desire — that’s a primary reason I’m speaking so frankly. But the approach you describe won’t work. If you refuse to acknowledge the existence of a problem, you can’t begin to solve it. One must identify the problem and explicitly state who and what are responsible for it.

Who and what are responsible?

Over the past 50 years, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have spent massively to promote their ultra-conservative version of Islam worldwide. After allowing this to go unchallenged for so many decades, the West must finally exert decisive pressure upon the Saudis to cease this behavior ... I admire Western, especially European, politicians. Their thoughts are so wonderfully humanitarian. But we live in a time when you have to think and act realistically.

The last time I was in Brussels I witnessed some Arab, perhaps North African, youth insult and harass a group of policemen. My Belgian friends remarked that such behavior has become an almost everyday occurrence in their country. Why do you allow such behavior? What kind if impression does that make? Europe, and Germany in particular, are accepting massive numbers of refugees. Don’t misunderstand me: of course you cannot close your eyes to those in need. But the fact remains that you’re taking in millions of refugees about whom you know virtually nothing, except that they come from extremely problematic regions of the world.

I would guess that you and I agree that there is a far right wing in Western societies that would reject even a moderate, contextualized Islam.

And there's an extreme left wing whose adherents reflexively denounce any and all talk about the connections between traditional Islam, fundamentalism and violence as de facto proof of Islamophobia. This must end. A problem that is not acknowledged cannot be solved.

Cleric jailed four years for funding terrorist training camp

Jun 30, 2015
The Straits Times

Radical cleric Afief Abdul Madjid has been sentenced to four years' jail for funding a terrorist paramilitary training camp in Aceh, but was acquitted of joining the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group and spreading its violent ideology for lack of evidence.

The Central Jakarta District Court handed down the jail sentence yesterday, which was half the eight-year sentence that the state prosecution had demanded.

Afief was indicted under the 2003 anti-terrorism law that can punish anyone for creating public fear, conspiring to carry out terror activities or funding terror activities.

In their arguments, the prosecutors pointed out that ISIS carried out killings amid other violent acts and was declared a terrorist group by the Indonesian government in November last year.

Yesterday, the court found 63-year-old Afief guilty of giving 25 million rupiah (S$2,500) to a man named Ubaid that went towards the Aceh paramilitary camp, which was raided in 2010.

In acquitting him of the charge of joining ISIS and spreading its violent ideology back home, the three-judge panel said there was not enough evidence to show that he had joined ISIS or pledged allegiance to it.

"The prosecutors accused the defendant of joining military training, pledging allegiance to ISIS and spreading the ideology, but this was not convincingly proven during the trial," presiding judge Mas'ud, who goes by one name, said yesterday.

But just minutes after the court acquitted Afief of the ISIS-related charge, one of his supporters shouted "Daulah Islamiyah, Merdeka!" or "Freedom for the Islamic State!".

More than 25 Afief supporters who were in court also shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) while the judge was reading out the verdict. One of them, Mr Umar Abdul Azis, 50, told The Straits Times: "The verdict is a form of oppression on cleric Afief who is just a religious teacher."

Afief is the first Indonesian to be have been tried for involvement in ISIS-related activity. He was arrested in August last year in Bekasi, West Java and his trial began in mid-February.

Mr Suroyo, one of the prosecutors, told The Straits Times that they plan to appeal against the jail sentence and the acquittal.

He said the prosecution had produced witnesses, including a humanitarian agency official who helped arrange Afief's trip to Syria and a jailed cleric who, together with Afief, had been speakers at a forum in Central Java to promote ISIS.

Radical Indonesian cleric arrested in terror plot

August 9, 2010

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia's anti-terrorism unit arrested a radical Islamist cleric Monday for alleged ties to an al-Qaida-affiliated cell accused of plotting high-profile assassinations and Mumbai-style attacks targeting foreigners in Jakarta.

Abu Bakar Bashir, who has been arrested twice before and spent several years in jail, arrived at the national police headquarters under tight security.

"The United States is behind this!" shouted the white-bearded cleric, who was wearing his traditional flowing white robe. "This arrest is a blessing ... I will be rewarded by Allah!"

The fiery 72-year-old is best known as one of the co-founders and spiritual head of Jemaah Islamiyah, the al-Qaida-linked network responsible for a string of suicide bombings in the world's most populous Muslim nation, including the 2002 attacks on Bali island that killed 202 people, most of them Western tourists.

Bashir has long denied links to terrorism. He was one of the founders of al-Mukmin boarding school in the Central Java town of Solo that produced some of the country's deadliest bombers.

Monday's arrest was the first time Bashir was directly linked to planning terrorist attacks instead of merely inspiring them with his anti-Western rhetoric calling for Islamic theocracy, said police spokesman Maj. Gen. Edward Aritonang. He accused the preacher of helping set up and fund a new terror cell in westernmost Aceh province.

Bashir's arrest in Ciamis, a district in West Java province, is the latest in a series of raids targeting al-Qaida in Aceh since authorities discovered the cell's jihadi training camp in February. More than 60 suspects have been arrested — including five on Sunday — and several large caches of assault weapons, ammunition and explosives have been seized.

Aritonang, the police spokesman, said Bashir was heavily involved with the group.

"He routinely received reports from their field coordinator," he said. "He also played an active role in preparing the initial plans for their military struggle."

The spokesman said that police have one week to file official charges.

The overwhelming majority of Indonesians are moderate Muslims who reject violence, but a small extremist fringe has gained strength in recent years. Bashir is considered by many to be a driving force for radical movements.

He served 2 1/2 years in jail for allegedly giving his blessing to the Bali bombers, but his conviction was later overturned. After his release in 2006, he started holding sermons nationwide calling for the creation of an Islamic state and spewing hatred toward foreigners.

Recently, Bashir formed a new radical movement, Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid, or JAT, described by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group as an "ostensibly above-ground organization" that embraced individuals with known ties to fugitive extremists.

Bashir came under renewed police scrutiny in May after three JAT members were arrested for allegedly raising funds for al-Qaida in Aceh.

The cell was accused of planning gun attacks on luxury hotels in the capital in an alleged plot reminiscent of the attacks in India's financial center of Mumbai, where 10 gunmen rampaged through the city in 2008 and killed 166 people.

It was planning several high-profile assassinations, including on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who said over the weekend that authorities had discovered yet another plot on his life.

Ken Conboy, an expert on Southeast Asian terror groups, called Bashir's arrest significant.

"Police have made tremendous headway in dismantling what was once JI and its remaining cell structures," said Conboy, adding this was another big step in that direction. "The next step is to take a close look at their rehabilitation efforts, where they've really been stumbling in recent years."

More than a dozen suspected members of al-Qaida in Aceh arrested by police were former convicts.

Bashir's son, Abdul Rohim, insisted his father, who went to Ciamis for a preaching engagement, was innocent.

"He was heading back to Solo when police arrested him together with my mother," he said. "We appeal police to treat my parents well... He was just carrying out his obligations as a Muslim."

Indonesia's last suicide bombing at the J.W. Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels in Jakarta ended a four-year lull in attacks blamed on Jemaah Islamiyah and its affiliates. Since 2002, more than 260 people have died in terrorist attacks, many of them foreign tourists.

Associated Press Writer Ali Kotarumalos contributed to this report from Jakarta.


Militant Islamic cleric blasts U.S., Australia upon release from Indonesian prison

Associated Press

SOLO, Indonesia (AP) — A militant cleric walked free from prison Wednesday to the cheers of supporters after serving 26 months in prison for conspiracy in the 2002 Bali bombings, and he accused the United States of terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Abu Bakar Bashir was surrounded by personal security guards as he left Jakarta's Cipinang prison

Bashir, 68, was found guilty of blessing the 2002 Bali attacks, in which 202 people were killed, but cleared of more serious terrorist charges, including heading the al-Qaeda-linked militant group Jemaah Islamiyah. No evidence has ever been presented linking him to the execution, preparation or commission of terrorist attacks.

The United States and Australia, which have accused the firebrand cleric of being a key member of Jemaah Islamiyah, said they were disappointed at his release.

Bashir's followers shouted "God is great!" as he left the prison. He headed immediately to an Islamic school notorious for producing some of Southeast Asia's deadliest terrorists, where he again received a hero's welcome.

Bashir was quick to point his finger at the United States and Australia, calling their leaders "infidels."

"The United States is a state terrorist because it is waging war against Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said, while stopping at a roadside mosque on the way to the central Javanese city of Solo, a 10-hour journey by road and home to the al-Mukmin boarding school.

Jemaah Islamiyah is accused of carrying out church bombings across Indonesia in 2000, the 2002 bombings on the resort island of Bali, attacks in the capital Jakarta in 2003 and 2004, and a triple suicide bombing on Bali last October. The attacks together killed more than 260 people and have thrust the world's most populous Muslim nation onto the front line of the war on terror.

Victims of the 2002 bombings said they were disappointed to see Bashir go free.

"It's hard to imagine how a leader of a gang ... can get only two years for orchestrating to kill 200 people and injuring many more," said Australian Peter Hughes, 46, who suffered burns to 56% of his body in the attack. "It doesn't make sense."

Australian Brian Deegan, whose 21-year-old son, Josh, died in the bombings, called Bashir's sentence "insulting."

Bashir's freedom has raised concerns that he will energize Indonesia's small, Islamic radical fringe by making impassioned speeches at rallies and mosques, but few believe the soft-spoken cleric will play any direct role in terrorism.

"I think he will reinforce anti-Western feelings, but I don't think he'll necessary push people over the line from radical rhetoric to violence," said Sidney Jones, the leading international expert on Jemaah Islamiyah.

Before the Bali blasts, Bashir was chiefly known for his vocal support of moves to make the secular country an Islamic state and his criticism of U.S. policy toward Muslim countries — themes he pounded on again Wednesday.

Upon arriving in Solo, Bashir stopped briefly at a hospital for a checkup and then went to the al-Mukmin boarding school he founded in 1972, where nearly 500 students greeted him, some pumping their fists in the air and cheering "God is great!"

Several graduates are in prison for involvement in terrorism and at least two others became suicide attackers, but Bashir — who has long said he opposes violence — told the youths that those who carried out the bombings "were wrong."

He urged them to follow his lead and use words to fight for their faith.

"The more bombs there are in Indonesia, the happier the United States will be," he said. "They will clap their hands, because what they're afraid of are sermons, the preaching of Islam."

He vowed to continue campaigning for the introduction of strict Islamic law in Indonesia, which has 190 million Muslims.

The State Department expressed deep disappointment about what it called Bashir's light sentence. Spokesman Sean McCormack said the court concluded he was a participant in "a sinister conspiracy to cause a fire or explosion resulting in deaths."

But, he said, it is up to Indonesians and their courts to interpret their own laws.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said he, too, felt disillusioned at Bashir's release. Eighty-eight of those killed in the 2002 nightclub blasts on Bali were Australian.

"Many Australians will see that particular outcome ... as an extremely disappointing result," Howard told Parliament, adding that he shared that sentiment.

Indonesia, which has arrested and convicted more than 150 militants in recent years, three of whom were sentenced to death, rejected any suggestion that it was a weak link in the fight against terrorism.

"As he has served his sentence, I hope other countries will not politicize this," said Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda.


Bashir calls for jihad against Israel

From correspondents in Jakarta

August 06, 2006 08:31pm
Agence France-Presse

THOUSANDS of Indonesians held street rallies today to condemn Israel's offensive in the Middle East as hardline cleric Abu Bakar Bashir called for a "jihad" force to battle the Jewish state.

In Jakarta, the capital of the world's most populous Muslim nation, more than 3000 people protested outside the UN mission over its failure to halt the violence.

"So far, there are no signs that the United Nations is acting justly as an international institution," Muslim leader Dien Syamsuddin told the crowd.

"We press the Indonesian Government to mobilise solidarity among peace-loving nations in the world to pressure the United Nations to halt the Israeli aggression.

"If the United Nations does nothing because it is influenced by the superpower, America, we call on the government of Indonesia to initiate a vote of non-confidence against the United Nations," said Mr Syamsuddin, who is a deputy chairman of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's second largest Islamic movement.

The demonstrators had gathered earlier for an inter-religious rally and later marched to the US embassy. The heads of various religions – Islam, Roman Catholicism, Protestants and Buddhists – led the protest.

"Give a Chance to Peace" and Save Children, No War," some of the banners read.

The crowd dubbed Israel "the aggressor" and the US "terrorist".

"Israel should be taken to the International Court of Justice because it has killed a lot of children and women," said a deputy chairman of the Indonesian Council of Ulema, Amidhan.

One group displayed a poster reading "Condemn the sadistical and inhuman actions of Israel, USA and the mayor of west Jakarta".

They were victims of evictions ordered by the mayor.

Bashir, speaking at mass prayers in support of Lebanon and Palestine, called on the Government to let Indonesians join the fight against Israel.

Bashir told some 1000 people in the Central Java town of Pekalongan that Jakarta should try to mobilise a mujahideen force from member countries of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.

"If it cannot ... at least open the door for citizens who want to engage in jihad (holy war) there," he said.

Bashir was sentenced to 30 months for his role in a "sinister conspiracy" that led to the 2002 Bali bombings, which left 202 people dead, including 88 Australians. He was released from prison in June.

Yesterday a group called the Asian Muslim Youth Movement said it was prepared to send hardliners to attack Jewish interests in countries that back Israel.

In Indonesia's second largest city, Surabaya, around 1500 Muslims held a protest march, El Shinta radio reported. In the city of Yogyakarta, it said, about 3000 people joined protests.

A similar protest involving hundreds of people took place in Medan.