Indonesian sentenced to 15 years over bombings

Kyodo News

Posted at Jan 20 2022 04:48 PM

An Indonesian court on Wednesday sentenced one of the leaders of Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian wing of international terrorist network al-Qaida, to 15 years in jail over a series of bombing attacks in 2000 that claimed 18 lives.

The East Jakarta District Court found Aris Sumarsono, known by his alias Zulkarnaen, guilty of terrorism in the simultaneous bombings of over 30 churches on the islands of Sumatra and Java as well as in eastern Indonesia on Christmas Eve in 2000.

Prosecutors demanded life imprisonment but the lighter sentence of 15 years in jail was handed down because the allegation over his involvement in the 2002 Bali bombings was unproved, according to judges.

While the defendant knew about the plot of the Bali bombing that killed 202 people, mostly Western holidaymakers, he was neither involved in the plan nor carried out the attacks, the judges said.

Sumarsono, 59, who was arrested on Sumatra Island at the end of 2020, was also found guilty in the bombing at the residence of the Philippine ambassador to Indonesia in 2000 that killed two people.

The Islamic militant, who studied biology at the country's prestigious Gadjah Mada University, had been on the wanted lists of the Indonesian and U.S. governments since the 2002 Bali bombings as well as the Islamic State and al-Qaida Sanctions List of the U.N. Security Council since 2005.

Sumarsono was also wanted for his involvement in the bombing of the JW Marriott Hotel in 2003 that left 12 people dead.

Called the JI "warrior leader" by his comrades, Sumarsono was the group's operational military chief after his predecessor, Nurjaman Riduan Isamuddin, was captured in 2003 by police in Thailand in cooperation with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

He is an expert in sabotage and bomb-making, techniques he learned in Afghanistan, according to some terrorism experts. He was among the first Indonesian Islamic militants to go to an al-Qaida military training camp in Afghanistan.

A protege of JI founder Abdullah Sungkar, Sumarsono was one of just a few Indonesians who had direct contact with Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan in 2011.