A Muslim cleric alleged to have inspired an attack on a church playground in Indonesia, in which one child was killed and three injured, has denied inciting hatred.
Aman Abdurrahman, 46, is facing a possible life sentence or even the death penalty for allegedly masterminding a series of bombings, including the one at Oikumene Church in Samarinda, the provincial capital of East Kalimantan province, in November 2016.
He is alleged to have told his followers to kill “heathens” from prison, where he is already serving a nine-year sentence for funding a militant training camp in Aceh and plotting other attacks.
But Abdurrahman told the South Jakarta District Court: “My view of heathenism does not authorise bloodshed. Like in Samarinda, that violates what I believe about how to behave towards Christians.”
Meanwhile, he said he only learned about a 2016 suicide attack in Jakarta, in which eight people died, from other inmates who had seen the news on TV. “I didn’t instruct them to do it,” he said.
‘Started to move on’
In September, five militants received prison sentences for their part in the Samarinda church attack.
The children who were injured are still undergoing treatment for the burns they sustained, and are also being given trauma care. Their families attended the court hearing last week and told World Watch Monitor it was a difficult experience because they had “started to move on”.
“All of us, at first, refused to attend the hearing as it will bring back the sad memories, but the Special Forces said it is important for us to testify,” said Marsyana Tiur, mother of five-year-old Alvaro, who was forced to undergo 17 operations in the first four months after the explosion.
“I am not concerned about the perpetrators or who is behind the attack anymore. What is important to me now is my child,” she added. “I told the judges about the amount of money we needed for Alvaro’s treatment. They advised me to keep all the receipts as they will try to propose to the government to sponsor the cost. I hope they will do it.”
The father of two-year-old Intan Banjarnahor, who died in the attack, also expressed concern that their testimonies would ignite further hatred among the families and supporters of the bombers.
‘He influenced thousands’
Abdurrahman told the court he had “never killed anyone”, but Sidney Jones, director of Jakarta-based think-tank Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, told Bernar News there is “no question that Aman Abdurrahman is Indonesia’s most important extremist ideologue, whose writings and sermons, disseminated online and over social media, influenced thousands”.
“The defendant is considered to be the most knowledgeable of Islamic State ideology [in Indonesia]” and was a helpful source for IS affiliated groups, another expert witness told the court, as reported by the Jakarta Post.
While in prison, Abdurrahman “pledged his allegiance to ISIS online and began translating the group’s propaganda into Indonesian in 2014”, according to the Singapore-based Straits Times. “He also amassed a following and some inmates went on to engage in terror activities after their release. In 2015, more than 20 Indonesian terrorist factions united behind Abdurrahman to support ISIS, giving birth to JAD [Jamaah Anshar Daulah, a local IS-affiliated group], which he directed from his prison cell.”
As the alleged founder of JAD, the US government has put him on a list of “global terrorists”.