JAKARTA: A terror suspect currently detained in Singapore testified yesterday that Indonesian Muslim ulama Abubakar Bashir heads the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) extremist group and had ordered a series of bloody church bombings.
Faiz Abu Bakar Bafana, giving evidence by teleconference in Abubakar's trial, was the first witness to implicate him in the bombings.
He said Abubakar also ordered an assassination attempt on Megawati Sukarnoputri before she became president but that a lower-level JI leader decided the plot was not feasible.
Faiz, in a day of dramatic testimony, said he and Abubakar once discussed “a programme of Sheikh Osama” but did not elaborate.
Prosecutor Firdaus Dewilmar, after the trial adjourned, said that Faiz was referring to Osama bin Laden, whose al-Qaeda is believed linked to JI.
Defence lawyers walked out of court in protest after judges overruled their objections to the teleconference. Abu Bakar's supporters angrily shouted “Allahu Akbar!”.
Prosecutors want to prove that Abubakar heads JI and that he tried to overthrow the Indonesian government through terrorism to establish an Islamic state.
Hashim bin Abas, a second Singapore detainee who testified later via TV, also named Abubakar as the JI chief and said the ulama would have authorised the bombings.
A sometimes tearful Faiz denounced terrorism as “shameful” and called on fellow JI members to “return to the true path.”
Faiz, a Malaysian, said he had visited the Indonesian city of Solo “to seek the approval of Ustaz Abubakar Bashir to attack churches in Indonesia.”
“He gave his blessing,” Faiz testified.
Prosecutors say Faiz ordered the Christmas Eve 2000 bombings of numerous churches and priests which killed 19 people.
Faiz also said he again visited Solo “to seek the approval on the appointment of Mukhlas to replace Hambali as head of (JI's) Mantiqi (region) One.” He said Abubakar personally approved the appointment.
JI is fighting for a pan-Islamic state covering much of Southeast Asia. Mantiqi One covers Malaysia and Singapore.
Police say Mukhlas, who is on trial for authorising the Bali bombings, became JI's operations chief after Hambali was forced to go on the run.
The bearded Faiz said he loves Abubakar and looks on him as a father. “I feel sorry for Ustaz,” he replied, when asked why he was crying.
Faiz said he was “ashamed and sad” after the Bali attack. “Making Islam as if it were a violent religion is a shameful way.”
Bafana and Hashim are among 13 JI suspects being detained in Singapore.
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