JAKARTA (AFP) – A Saudi man went on trial in Indonesia Wednesday accused of financing twin suicide bombings on luxury hotels in Jakarta last year that killed seven people.
Al Khelaiw Ali Abdullah, 54, “provided assistance and facilities to the terrorists by way of giving or lending money, things, or other wealth,” according to the indictment.
Prosecutor Totok Bambang said the defendant, who was arrested shortly after the July 17 attacks on the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels, provided the funding that pushed the plot into an operational phase.
Attack ringleader Noordin Mohammed Top, who was killed by police in September, told one of the suicide bombers to prepare for death after the money arrived from the Middle East, the indictment says.
Ali Abdullah strongly rejected the allegations as he arrived at the South Jakarta courthouse, saying he had wanted to start an Internet business in Indonesia and had no intention of funding terrorism.
“I’m not a terrorist and I don’t know any terrorists,” he told AFP outside the court.
“I came to Indonesia to relax, be healthy and to start a computer business. I don’t know anything about Al-Qaeda. Many of my relatives in Saudi Arabia are police and we fight terrorists.”
Wearing a pink shirt and walking with a cane, he said he had given 54 million rupiah (5,800 dollars) to a man called Iwan Herdiansyah to start an Internet cafe and computer retail shop.
He admitted to meeting Syaifudin Zuhri, the alleged operational commander of the hotel attacks who was killed by police in October, but denied giving him any money or knowing anything about the bomb plot.
The indictment says Iwan gave 2.8 million rupiah of the Saudi’s money to Zuhri in four installments.
If found guilty he faces up to 15 years’ jail.
Defence lawyer Asludin Hatjani said the prosecution had no evidence and called for the charges to be thrown out.
“Does it mean that anyone who opens a business here to make a profit is said to be assisting in a terrorist act? The defendant had no intention to assist in a terrorist act,” he said in response to the charges.
Police have said they are investigating whether funding for the attacks came from Al-Qaeda, which has allegedly financed previous attacks linked to Noordin and regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).
Analysts believe Al-Qaeda would be a likely source if the funding came from abroad but police have not confirmed any connection between the hotel blasts and Saudi-born Osama bin Laden’s network.
Al-Qaeda allegedly financed the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, and Noordin’s first major operation, a 2003 truck bombing of the Jakarta Marriott that killed 12.
Prosecutors said Ali Abdullah worked with Zuhri and Noordin’s alleged driver, Amir Abdillah, to channel funds to the plotters.
Abdillah is standing trial in separate proceedings for his alleged role in the attacks.
Another suspect, prominent Islamist blogger Mohammed Jibril Abdurahman, went on trial Tuesday charged with concealing information about a terrorist act and falsifying a passport which he used to enter Saudi Arabia in September 2008.
The hotel attacks were the first against Western targets in Indonesia since 2005, when Noordin’s JI splinter group allegedly bombed tourist restaurants on the resort island of Bali, killing 20 people.