By NINIEK KARMINI, Associated Press
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — An Islamic activist who evaded capture for 18 years was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Wednesday after an Indonesian court found him guilty of withholding information about the attacks from authorities. Bali bombing in 2002 and harboring other suspects.
Prosecutors previously sought life in prison for Aris Sumarsono, 58, real name Arif Sunarso but better known as Zulkarnaen, for his role in the October 2002 bombings in Bali that killed 202 people, mainly foreign tourists including 88 Australians and seven Americans.
However, the three-judge panel of the East Jakarta District Court said they ignored prosecutors’ first charge because the prosecution period had expired, and they sentenced Zulkarnaen to 15 years in prison for harboring other suspects, including bomb maker Upik Lawanga, and for hiding information from authorities about the deadly attacks.
The Indonesian Penal Code stipulates that the power to prosecute criminals is abolished after 18 years.
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“The defendant is found lawfully and convincingly guilty of committing an act of terrorism on the third count,” the presiding judge told the court during a session held remotely due to the pandemic, adding that Zulkarnaen was aware of the terrorist attacks. but “did not inform the authorities; instead, he harbored a terrorist suspect.
Zulkarnaen has been detained since December 10. The judges ordered that the time he had already served be deducted from his sentence.
Prosecutors said they would appeal to a higher court, while Zulkarnaen said he accepted the ruling and would not appeal.
Police and prosecutors say Zulkarnaen is the former military commander of Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian militant group linked to al-Qaeda. The group is widely blamed for the October 2002 bombings at a nightclub on the Indonesian resort island of Bali and the attacks in the Philippines.
Zulkarnaen had evaded capture for 18 years after being named a suspect in the 2002 suicide bombings at Paddy’s Pub and Sari Club in Bali. He was arrested last year in the same town in South Sumatra where Lawanga, a bomb-maker for the Jemaah Islamiyah network who evaded capture for 16 years, was arrested by anti-terror police a week earlier. Lawanga was sentenced to life in prison last month.
Police were tipped off to their hideout after questioning several suspected activists arrested in earlier raids.
Zulkarnaen argued that although he was a leader of the network’s military wing, he was not involved in the Bali bombings operation, as he focused on organizing his team to sectarian conflicts in Ambon and Poso and in the southern Philippines.
“I didn’t even know when the Bali bombings would take place,” Zulkarnaen told the court in his plea last week.
During his trial, which began in September, other activists convicted of the 2002 Bali bombings, including Umar Patek and Ali Imron, who were sentenced to 20 years and life in prison respectively, supported Zulkarnaen’s claim, saying he knew about the plot, but did it. plays no role in its operation.
Police previously said Zulkarnaen staged attacks on churches that occurred simultaneously across many parts of Indonesia over Christmas and New Years in 2000 and killed more than 20 people. He was also the mastermind of a bombing of the Philippine ambassador’s official residence in Jakarta in 2000 that killed two people, and the architect of sectarian conflict in Ambon and Poso from 1998 to 2000.
Conflicts between Christians and Muslims in Ambon, the provincial capital of the Molluca Islands, have left more than 5,000 dead and half a million displaced. The Christian-Muslim conflict in Poso, known as a hotbed of Islamic militancy on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, killed at least 1,000 people from 1998 to 2002.
Zulkarnaen was among the first Indonesian militants to travel to Afghanistan in the 1980s for training. He then became an instructor at a military academy for seven years, Indonesian police said.
Since May 2005, Zulkarnaen has been named on an Al-Qaida sanctions list by the UN Security Council for being associated with Osama bin Laden or the Taliban.
The Security Council declared that Zulkarnaen, who had become an expert in sabotage, was one of the representatives of Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia and one of the few people in Indonesia who had had direct contact with the network of Ben Laden.
He said Zulkarnaen led a squad of fighters known as Laskar Khos, or Special Force, whose members were recruited from some 300 Indonesians who trained in Afghanistan and the Philippines.
Zulkarnaen was named head of Camp Saddah, a military academy in the southern Philippines established for fighters from Southeast Asia, the Security Council said. He spent a decade at the camp training other members of Jemaah Islamiyah.
He became head of operations for Jemaah Islamiyah after his predecessor, Encep Nurjaman, also known as Hambali, was arrested in Thailand in 2003.
The United States’ Rewards for Justice program had offered a bounty of up to $5 million for his capture. He was the only Indonesian on the list.
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