It was a long time coming, but certainly worth the wait. An Indonesian court has sentenced Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir to 15 years behind bars for a series of terror-related charges, including planning, attempting, funding and inciting terrorism.
More than 3,000 security staff had been deployed around Jakarta, while about 500 Bashir supporters waited outside the courtas Judge Herri Swantoro sentenced the cleric. Prosecutors had demanded Bashir be sentenced to life in prison. Bashir, who led Jamaat Tawhid Anshoru (JAT), issued a statement saying he rejected the verdict because it was based on laws formulated by infidels.
‘The authorities take repressive actions and intimidate clerics and Muslims, using the war on terrorism as a reason. If this is allowed to continue, it is not impossible for Muslims to be slaughtered,’ the statement said.
Earlier, the 72-year-old cleric had said the court’s findings in his third trial were up to God.
Bashir has previously been accused of being the spiritual leader of Indonesia's home-grown terror network, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). He founded the Al-Mukmin Islamic boarding school in Ngruki with Abdullah Sangkar in 1972, and it became a major recruitment ground for JI.
In the first two trials, prosecutors tried to directly link him to the 2002 bombings in Bali and the 2003 J.W. Marriott bomb attack in Jakarta. But the courts found him guilty of relatively minor charges, and he served 25 months in jail before he was released in June 2006.
In the wake of his arrest last August, authorities said they feared militants were preparing to launch assassination attempts on Indonesian government officials.
Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd welcomed the sentencing.
‘At this time, our thoughts go first and foremost to the families of the more than 110 Australians who have died as a result of terrorist attacks over the past 10 years,' he said, adding the Australian government hoped his conviction brings some measure of justice to the families of the victims.
‘The Government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has demonstrated firm resolve in the fight against terrorism. Abu Bakar Bashir’s arrest and successful prosecution were the result of effective work by Indonesian authorities and full credit goes to them,’ Rudd said.
Herri Swantoro, 52, is the same head judge who sentenced Indonesia's former anti-corruption tsar Antasari Azhar to 18 years for the murder of Nasrudin Zulkarnain. He also sentenced Tommy Suharto to 15 years for his involvement in the murder of Supreme Court Judge Syaifuddin Kartasasmita.
All senior figures related to JI out of which JAT was formed have now been jailed or killed.