If this trial were to result in an honest and open examination of why Abu Bakar Bashir thinks his actions inciting violence and terror are in accord with Islamic teaching, that would be all to the good. But it probably won’t.
“Terrorism charges denied: ‘I was only defending Islam,'” by Karlis Salna for AP, February 15 (thanks to David):
JAKARTA: The Indonesian Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir yesterday denied being the leader of a terrorist network found training in Aceh, and said a string of fresh charges against him had been fabricated and that he was simply defending Islam….
Hundreds of vocal supporters were at the court, but were outnumbered by heavily armed police. Police said 2000 officers had been deployed to the area.
Commenting from his cell before the hearing, Bashir rejected the allegations, saying they were ”all made up”.
”I did nothing. I was only defending Islam,” he said.
The most serious charges include planning and/or inciting a terrorist act, and trafficking in weapons and explosives for the purpose of conducting terrorism, both of which carry a maximum penalty of death.
However, it is the charge of supplying funds for terrorism, which carries a jail term of between three and 15 years, for which it appears the prosecution has the strongest evidence, including statements from a number of Bashir’s associates from Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT)….
He later said that the charges were the result of pressure from the United States. ”It’s wrong, it’s what America wants. I am feared by America. I am considered as al-Qaeda here,” he said while being escorted back to his cell at police headquarters in Jakarta.
Prosecutors allege the Aceh terrorist network planned to assassinate President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, as well as attack foreign interests, specifically US citizens and Jews.