JAKARTA, Feb 27 – Indonesia’s top court on Monday upheld a 15-year jail term against Islamist militant Abu Bakar Bashir for terrorist acts, reversing an earlier decision to slash the sentence to nine years.
Bashir is regarded as a spiritual leader of militant Islam in Indonesia — the world’s most populous Muslim country — and is an outspoken supporter of Al-Qaeda-style jihad, but the 73-year-old has always denied being a terrorist.
In June last year a lower court sentenced him to 15 years in jail, but upon appeal the High Court slashed it to nine, citing lack of evidence and old age.
“Abu Bakar Bashir is proven to be guilty officially and convincingly of committing terrorist acts,” the Supreme Court said in its ruling, which is final.
Bashir, who is behind bars, was the alleged founder and chief ideologue of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) group, responsible for a string of attacks including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.
The fiery but frail preacher accuses the United States, its allies and Jews everywhere of terrorism against Islam — and says waging war against them is every Muslim’s duty.
When given the 15-year jail sentence last year, true to form Bashir rejected the verdict, demonstrating to his fanatical supporters that he believes the rule of law as enshrined in the country’s secular, democratic constitution does not apply to him.
“This is haram (forbidden in Islam). I reject this because it is cruel and disregards Islamic sharia. This ruling is by the friends of the devil and it is haram for me to accept it,” he told the judge.
The United States last week officially labelled the Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT), founded by Bashir in 2008, a foreign terrorist organisation, linking it to several attacks in Indonesia.
The State Department accuses that group of being behind a church bombing in Java last September, deadly attacks on Indonesian policemen and bank robberies aimed at raising money for weapons and bomb materials.
In response, Bashir said in a statement: “This is simply an effort by the United States to influence the judges in the Supreme Court to keep on detaining me.”