Indonesian prosecutors postpone sentencing for top terror suspect Zulkarna

Indonesian prosecutors have postponed their demands for the sentencing of a top suspect in terrorism who escaped capture for 18 years and is accused of being behind deadly attacks and sectarian conflicts.

Aris Sumarsono, 58, better known as the Zulkarna, is the former military chief of Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian militant group linked to al-Qaeda.

The group is widely accused of attacks, including the bombings in 2002 on the Indonesian resort island of Bali that killed 202 people, as well as attacks in the Philippines.

Prosecutors were scheduled to issue their sentencing Wednesday, but said they had not finished preparing for it.

“We need time to study this case before we issue our claims,” ​​prosecutor Teguh Suhendro said in a hearing at East Jakarta District Court.

The claim was originally scheduled for November 24, but has been postponed several times.

President Judge Alex Adam Faisal ordered prosecutors to make their claims on January 5th.

Smoke rises from the rubble of a building that was bombed
Eighty-eight Australians were killed in the 2002 Bali bombings.(AFP: Cyril Terrien)

The Zulkarna had escaped capture since being identified as the October 2002 suicide bomber at Paddy’s Pub and Sari Club in Bali.

He was arrested last year in Lampung, the same southern city on Sumatra island where Jemaah Islamiyah bomber Upik Lawanga was arrested a week earlier.

The two were convicted separately by the same court.

More than 200 people were killed in the Bali bombings in 2002, including 88 Australians.

Lawanga, who was on the police wanted list for 16 years, was sentenced to life in prison on December 8.

Police were tipped off at his hideout after questioning several suspected militants arrested earlier.

The Zulkarna claims he did not play a role in the bombing in Bali

Part of the Sari Club, destroyed by fire during the Bali bombing in 2002.
Indonesian police have arrested more than 500 suspected Jemaah Islamiyah members in the past two years.(Delivered by: Bill Hardy)

Since May 2005, the Zulkarna has been on an al-Qaeda sanctions list by the UN Security Council for being linked to Osama bin Laden or the Taliban.

He became chief of operations for Jemaah Islamiyah following the arrest of his predecessor, Encep Nurjaman, also known as Hambali, in Thailand in 2003.

The U.S. “Rewards for Justice” program had offered a bounty of up to $ 5 million ($ 6.9 million) for his capture.

He was the only Indonesian on the list.

The Zulkarna claimed to be the leader of the network’s military wing, but that he was not involved at all levels of operation in the Bali bombings because he focused on organizing supporters in sectarian conflicts in Ambon and Poso and in the southern Philippines.

During his trial, which began in September, other convicted militants in the Bali bombings in 2002, including Umar Patek and Ali Imron, who were sentenced to 20 years and life in prison, respectively, supported Zulkarna’s argument, saying he knew about the plot but did not played a role in its operation.

An Indonesian court banned Jemaah Islamiyah in 2008, and a continued repression of security forces with the support of the United States and Australia helped weaken the militant network.

Militant attacks on foreigners in Indonesia have in recent years been largely replaced by smaller, less deadly attacks targeting the government, primarily police and security forces, inspired by Islamic State group tactics abroad.

Indonesia’s law enforcement unit, known as Densus 88, has arrested more than 500 suspected Jemaah Islamiyah members in the past two years, including a member of Indonesia’s Ulema Council, the country’s highest Islamic body.

Authorities estimate the group has more than 6,000 members.



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