JAKARTA, (AFP) — Islamist militant cleric Abu Bakar Bashir blamed the United States for increasing his jail term, two days after Indonesia’s top court reinstated his 15-year sentence for terrorism.
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 he has always denied being a terrorist.
Appearing in public to undergo his second cataract surgery at an eye hospital in Jakarta, the 73-year-old defiantly called on his followers to fight the US “until it is destroyed”.
“America is the enemy of Islam so, the verdict must be America’s order,” he told reporters, as he was escorted into a police vehicle by armed paramilitary and anti-terror police.
“We must continue to fight America until it is destroyed.”
A lower court last June sentenced him to 15 years in jail for deliberately inciting terrorism and funding a terror cell in Aceh province which was allegedly planning deadly attacks on Westerners and politicians.
Upon appeal the High Court slashed it to nine, citing lack of evidence and old age but the country’s Supreme Court on Monday reinstated the 15-year sentence.
An alleged founder and chief ideologue of regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), Bashir is no stranger to prison cells after a lifetime of agitation against Indonesia’s secular authorities.
The United States last week officially labelled the Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT) group, founded by Bashir in 2008, a foreign terrorist organisation, linking it to several attacks in Indonesia.
The three-year-old group was behind a Java church bombing last September, deadly attacks on Indonesia policemen and bank robberies aimed at raising money for weapons and bomb materials, the State Department said.
“JAT seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate in Indonesia, and has carried out numerous attacks on Indonesian government personnel and civilians in order to achieve this goal,” it said in a statement.
Nine JAT supporters gathered in front of the US embassy in Jakarta Wednesday to submit a protest letter.
“America has no right to label us as a terrorist group. Their statement is slander,” its spokesman Son Hadi Muhadjir told AFP.