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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 19 July 2018

Indonesian cleric sentenced to death over 2016 terror attack

Aman Abdurrahman is spiritual leader of the Indonesian extremist network Jamaah Ansharut Daulah 

Indonesian cleric Aman Abdurrahman leaves a court in Jakarta after being sentenced to death on June 22, 2018. Darren Whiteside / Reuters
Indonesian cleric Aman Abdurrahman leaves a court in Jakarta after being sentenced to death on June 22, 2018. Darren Whiteside / Reuters

Indonesian cleric Aman Abdurrahman was sentenced to death Friday for masterminding a 2016 ISIS terror attack that saw a suicide bomber blow himself up at a Starbucks cafe.

Heavily armed police guarded the hearing at a Jakarta court, which had earlier found Abdurrahman guilty of ordering the attack that killed four in the capital.

It was the first attack claimed by the international terror network in South-East Asia.

Abdurrahman "has been proven to have committed a criminal act of terrorism. He will be sentenced to death," said judge Akhmad Jaini, who also cited the cleric's involvement in other plots for the ruling.

Abdurrahman, who sat on a defendant's chair in the middle of the courtroom, appeared bored and showed little reaction to the sentence.

He gestured to his legal team and briefly kissed the floor after the decision, but said nothing audible.

His lawyer, Asludin Hatjani, described the ruling as "unfair", citing a lack of evidence connecting Abdurrahman to the deadly attack.

Executions are carried out by firing squad in Indonesia, the world's biggest Muslim-majority country, which has long struggled with Islamist militancy.

In 2002, bombings at the resort island of Bali killed more than 200 people - mostly foreign tourists - in Indonesia's worst terror attack.

The assault in the capital two years ago saw security forces armed militants near the cafe where a suicide bomber detonated his explosives.

Prosecutors last month demanded that Abdurrahman be handed a death sentence for his role in that attack.

Police take cover behind vehicles during an exchange of gunfire with militants in Jakarta on January 14, 2016. Bay Ismoyo / AFP
Police take cover behind vehicles during an exchange of gunfire with militants in Jakarta on January 14, 2016. Bay Ismoyo / AFP

Considered the de facto head of ISIS supporters in Indonesia, Abdurrahman - believed to be 46 - is also the spiritual leader of local extremist network Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD).

Authorities have said JAD was involved in the 2016 Jakarta attack and a recent wave of suicide bombings in Indonesia's second-biggest city, Surabaya.

Two families - including girls aged nine and 12 - blew themselves up at churches and a police station last month, killing 13.

Authorities have not charged Abdurrahman - who was already in jail on a separate terror conviction - over the Surabaya attacks.

Despite being imprisoned since 2010, he has recruited militants to join ISIS, is thought to have been in communication with leaders of the extremist group, and is the main translator for ISIS propaganda in Indonesia, according to analysts and authorities.

Although considered Indonesia's largest pro-ISIS coalition, JAD's structure and links to the network are murky.

The Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict has said JAD is "a generic term" used for any ISIS supporter and functions more as an umbrella organisation than a coherent group.

Formed in 2015, JAD is thought to be composed of some two dozen Indonesian groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abubakr Al Baghdadi, according to the US State Department, which last year designated it as an extremist network.

Apart from the 2016 Jakarta attacks, JAD carried out suicide attacks the following year which killed three policemen and injured a dozen others at a busy bus station in Jakarta.

It has also been linked to a series of other plots including a firebomb attack on a church that killed a toddler and a plan to launch a Christmas-time suicide bombing. This was foiled when the militants planning the attack were killed.

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