Sari P. Setiogi, The Jakarta Post/Jakarta
The elderly Muslim cleric who is on trial for the bombings in
Bali and at the JW Mariott Hotel in Jakarta, Abu Bakar Ba'asyir,
mocked the court on Thursday and challenged it to pile on the
Ba'asyir said in his defense plea that the charges addressed to
him was a mere joke, made only to satisfy the United States.
"To add to the thrill, why not add the bombing (in front of) the
General Election Commission (July 26), the Kuningan bombing (in
September) and the blast (in front of) the Indonesian Embassy in
Paris (Oct. 8) to my charges," Ba'asyir said, referring to a number
of bombings this year.
He faces criminal charges for the bombings in Bali in 2002 which
claimed 202 lives, for which the maximum penalty is life, and of
violating the anti terrorism law for the U.S.-chain JW Marriott
hotel bombing in Jakarta in 2003 which killed 12 people.
Earlier the Constitutional Court ruled that the anti terrorism
law which was passed early last year and for which the maximum
penalty is death, could not apply retroactively.
"I was accused for being involved with the Marriott bombing while
I had been under detention for about a year. I didn't even know that
Marriott was a name of a hotel," the 66-year-old cleric said reading
"Perhaps the police and the prosecutors believe I could go in and
out of prison magically ... This is really a joke," he said.
He reiterated claims that his trial was part of a U.S. scenario
to pressure on Muslims. Referring to President George W. Bush, who
has just been re-elected, he said, "He made things up, as if it was
a fight against terrorism. Bush's definition of a terrorist is every
Muslim who tries to establish Islamic law."
Ba'asyir is also accused for attending a graduation ceremony of
an Islamic militia training in Mindanao, the Philippines, in April
2000, an incident which the prosecution relates to his involvement
in the bombings.
Graduates of the training included Malaysian nationals Azahari
and Noordin M. Top, leading fugitives wanted for several bombing
cases in Indonesia, including the latest, Sept. 9 blast in front of
the Australian Embassy in Jakarta which claimed 10 lives. The
training is said to be held by the United Nations-listed terrorist
organization Jemaah Islamiyah, which Ba'asyir is accused of leading.
"I was busy preparing the Congress of Majelis Mujahiddin
Indonesia (MMI) in Yogyakarta at that time," said Ba'asyir of the
organization which he chairs.
His lawyer Muhammad Assegaff said that the prosecutor "had
connected several entirely unrelated events." Also citing the
interest of the U.S. and its allies including Australia in the war
on terrorism, Assegaff questioned why his client was prosecuted for
the Bali bombing only two years after the event.
After the trial, Ba'asyir asked for a suspended detention to
celebrate the coming Idul Fitri with his family at home. The judges
said they would consider the request.
Thursday trial's was attended by dozens of Ba'asyir's supporters,
his wife and two sons.
The trial was adjourned until Nov. 11 to hear the prosecutor's
response to the defense statement.