Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Net closes on the smiling jihadi

DENSUS 88, the Indonesian counter-terrorism police, used every day of the four months available to substantiate its charges against Abu Bakar Bashir before delivering him with its brief of evidence to the South Jakarta prosecutors on Monday. The prosecutors have 60 days to finalise an indictment against the 72-year-old cleric who, if convicted, could be sentenced to death, though that penalty is highly unlikely to be imposed. The Attorney-General's Office, however, wants Bashir in the dock as early as possible in the new year. The quicker the better, says South Jakarta chief prosecutor Mohammed Yusuf. Nor are the authorities waiting until the trial to argue their case that Bashir was not just a religious inspiration and fundraiser for the Aceh militant training camp that was dismantled by Densus 88 in February, but the actual leader of the so-called al-Qa'ida in Aceh.

"In November 2009, Abu Tholud, with Dulmatin, Abdullah Sonata, Ubaid and Warsito agreed to increase the training in Aceh to military level and [to form] al-Qa'ida Serambi Mekah," National Police spokesman Iskandar Hasan told reporters yesterday morning. "At this meeting they agreed that the amir [leader] was Abu Bakar Bashir. We have stated this all in his investigation report which we submitted to the prosecutors' office." Abu Tholut, the alleged camp training co-ordinator and a Bashir acolyte, was, until his arrest on Friday morning, the only one of the senior Aceh plotters still at large. Dulmatin was killed in a Densus 88 ambush in March. The rest are in prison, at least two of them already on trial. Immediately after yesterday's press conference, Indonesian television showed live coverage of 48-year-old Abu Tholut being brought to Jakarta under heavy security. The message from the authorities was clear: we have Abu Tholut and that proves Bashir's complicity.

Unlike Dulmatin, the preacher cannot deny knowing him. They met when both were in Cipinang prison in 2004, Abu Tholut taught at Bashir's religious boarding school near Solo, al-Mukmin, and later joined the cleric's above-ground and purportedly anti-violence organisation, Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid. As previously in the case of the executed Bali bomber Mukhlas, Bashir's former student, the softly-spoken cleric denies knowing anything about Abu Tholut's alleged terrorist activities. The younger man left JAT over "ideological differences", he said on Monday, adding approvingly: "Tholut is a holy warrior." On the day of Dulmatin's funeral, he said: "Dulmatin was a mujahed, even if I don't agree with his struggle and use of violence in the country in times of peace."

Of the Aceh training camp, his lawyer Luthfie Hakim said a fortnight ago the preacher denied any association with or knowledge of terrorist activities. But once again: "According to ustad [teacher] Abu Bakar Bashir, what happened in Aceh is in line with what Islam teaches and is not a crime, not a terrorist act." Bashir has already been tried for involvement in three of Indonesia's worst terrorist outrages of the past decade. He was found not guilty twice and convicted once, but acquitted on appeal. In previous trials he has been able to remain mostly silent while his lawyers have exploited serious flaws and weaknesses in the prosecution's cases. He is a sinuous quarry. The authorities' painstaking diligence before and since his August 9 arrest -- and now the prosecutorial urgency and public theatre -- underscores that for the Indonesian justice system's credibility, this will be the most important terrorism trial since at least December 2006.



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Who am I?

I am a law enforcement professional with over 35 years experience in both sworn and civilian positions. I have service in 3 different countries in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

My principal areas of expertise are: (1) Intelligence, (2) Training and Development, (3) Knowledge Management, and (4) Administration/Supervision.

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