Thursday, February 24, 2011

Indonesia: Weapons training 'an act of worship': Bashir

Radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, center, reads out his defense plea during his trial at a district court in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011.

Islam's spiritual militarism ~ highlighted in the Aceh, Indonesia terror training camp trial.

INDONESIAN cleric Abu Bakar Bashir yesterday denied leading an al-Qa'ida-style group that was plotting attacks and assassinations in Indonesia, as his trial resumed amid tight security.

However, he said that Muslims carrying out weapons training did so as a divinely-ordered "act of worship" so as to "defend Islam".

supporter of radical Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir holds up a poster of his leader outside the South Jakarta court February 24, 2011.

The preacher, who is revered by Islamists around the region, is accused of leading a militant group that was discovered last year training recruits in Aceh province to wage jihad or holy war.

Police jostled with about 200 of the 72-year-old's supporters who tried to enter the court as he arrived under tight guard amid shouts of "Allahu akbar" (God is great).

Radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir speaks to the media from behind bars of a holding cell before the start of his trial at a district court in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011

Wearing his usual white robes, skull cap and shawl, Bashir smiled and looked calm as he was escorted through the crowd by members of the elite Detachment 88 anti-terror police squad.

Supporters of Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir shout 'God is Great' during his appearance at court on February 14, 2011 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

"I am convinced that, based on Islamic sharia (law), the physical and weapons training in a mountainous area in Aceh was an act of worship by Muslims as ordered by God to deter Muslim enemies," he said, reading from a 90-page defence document.

"They are in fact mujaheddin (holy warriors) who were struggling to defend Islam from attacks by America, Australia and their allies."

Supporters of radical Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir raise their hands as they shout slogans outside the South Jakarta court during his trial February 24, 2011.

He called the democratically elected government "poisonous" for its failure to outlaw a minority Muslim sect, which has suffered from years of persecution and violence at the hands of Islamic extremists.

Bashir could face the death penalty if convicted of the charges, which include leading and financing a terrorist group and supplying illegal weapons.

Bashir, 72, is the co-founder of Jeemah Islamiah, the organisation behind the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, and has been accused of funding terrorism.

The so-called al-Qa'ida in Aceh group was planning Mumbai-style attacks using squads of suicide gunmen against Westerners, police and political leaders including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, according to police.

Its operations leader, Indonesian bombmaker Dulmatin, was killed by police in March last year.

Scores of other members of the group have been killed or captured.

Bashir denies any involvement in terrorism and claims he is being framed by the US and its allies, including "the Jews".

Supporters of Abu Bakar Bashir watch video screen during his trial at a district court in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, Feb. 14, 2011.

"Based on the facts I have no doubt that Detachment 88 is God's enemy," he said, referring to the US-backed anti-terror squad that has killed and captured hundreds of terror suspects since it was formed in 2003.

Bashir is an alleged co-founder of the Jemaah Islamiah regional terror organisation blamed for multiple attacks, including the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people, 88 of them Australians.

Bashir claims that attack was actually a US missile strike.

AFP

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