21 suspected militants go on trial in Indonesia for allegedly plotting attacks on aid workers

By Niniek Karmini, AP
Thursday, August 26, 2010

21 suspected militants go on trial in Indonesia

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Twenty-one suspected Islamist militants went on trial Thursday on charges of plotting attacks on foreign aid workers and others in Indonesia’s Aceh province following a deadly tsunami.

The defendants, who appeared in eight separate trials at the West Jakarta District Court, are among more than 100 suspects who have been rounded up or killed after the discovery of a new terror cell in February.

Prosecutors said the defendants set up a military training camp in Aceh to prepare to fight “infidels.”

“Their targets were foreign workers,” said Feritas, who represents the state in several of the cases. He said the men believed relief workers who poured into the region after the 2004 tsunami were guilty of proselytizing.

“They also think Americans, Britons and Australians support and help Israel kill Muslims in many countries,” he said.

All of the defendants, who have not yet entered pleas, are accused of violating the anti-terror law, for which they can face up to 20 years in jail.

Oman Rochman, a 38-year-old defendant, said they committed no crime with the training.

“It was not intended for any action at home,” he told reporters after the hearing. “We were preparing ourselves to defend our Palestinian brothers, and that is our obligation as Muslims.”

Indonesia, a secular nation with the world’s largest population of Muslims, has been hit by a string of terror attacks in recent years blamed on al-Qaida-linked militants. Most people in the country of 237 million practice a moderate form of the faith, but Aceh is known for its strict enforcement of Islamic values.

That was one of the reasons the province was chosen as a base for the new cell named “al-Qaida in Aceh,” terror experts say. The cell reportedly consists of militants from several different regional terror networks, including Jemaah Islamiyah.

Feritas, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, said the suspects planned to kill aid workers and attack churches, U.N. offices and all other Western symbols.

One of the men facing trial is accused of shooting and injuring Erhard Bauer, a German Red Cross worker, in Aceh last year. He is also accused of throwing grenades at a U.N. Children’s Fund office. No one was injured in that attack.

Indonesia straddles a series of fault lines that make the vast island nation prone to volcanic and seismic activity. The giant quake that triggered the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed 230,000 people, half of them in Aceh.

will not be displayed