JAKARTA, Indonesia — A key ideologue for Islamic State militants in Indonesia went on trial Thursday for ordering acts of terror including a 2016 suicide bombing and gun attack in Jakarta that killed eight people including 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. He faces the death penalty if convicted.
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.
In the indictment, prosecutors told the court that from prison in late 2015, Abdurrahman urged all members of Jemaah Anshorut Daulah to immediately carry out jihad and fulfil an order from IS leadership in Syria to attack foreigners and emulate deadly IS attacks in European cities. His cellmate, Iwan Dharmawan alias Rois, facilitated funding, prosecutors said.
Reflecting a dire lack of supervision of militants in Indonesia’s overcrowded prisons, Abdurrahman was able to spread radicalism and communicate with his supporters on the outside through visitors and video calls.
Prosecutors said Abdurrahman’s instructions resulted in several attacks in Indonesia, including the January 2016 attack on a Starbucks in Jakarta, an attack on a bus terminal in the capital that killed three police officers and an attack on a church in Kalimantan that killed a 2-year-old girl.
The five-judge panel appointed a lawyer for Adburrahman after he refused to do so himself.
After the indictment was read, Adburrahman, 46, did not use his right to respond, apparently showing his rejection of the secular legal system.
In a bizarre twist, Abdurrahman was among more than 90,000 inmates granted an early release for Indonesia’s Aug. 17 Independence Day holiday last year. He was arrested for ordering the Jakarta and other attacks before he could be released.
Indonesia still faces a significant risk of attacks despite a sustained crackdown on militants following the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people. The crackdown reduced the Jemaah Islamiyah network behind the Bali bombings to remnants but a new generation of would-be jihadis has coalesced behind the IS banner. Though their capacity to launch large-scale attacks is limited, experts say it could be enhanced if Indonesians who fought with IS in Syria and Iraq return home.
Earlier this week, a Jakarta court sentenced Zainal Anshori, the operational leader of Jemaah Anshorut Daulah, to seven years in prison for involvement in smuggling guns from the southern Philippines.
Adburrahman’s trial resumes on Feb. 23 with witness testimony.