Police seek Abu Bakar Bashir link to killings and robbery

POLICE are trying to link a deadly attack on a North Sumatra police station and an earlier bank robbery to radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir.

Bashir is already in custody charged with terrorism offences.

However, the police evidence against Bashir – that before his arrest in August he preached twice at Hamparan Perak, where the three policemen were killed on September 22 – has been denounced by his lawyers as baseless.

Indonesian National Police spokesman Iskandar Hasan said the information came from suspects in custody for the Hamparan Perak attack and the August 18 Medan armed bank robbery in which 300 million rupiah ($34,235) was stolen and a policeman killed.

“Although Bashir did not directly order the crimes, he passed on to his congregations his wrong interpretation (of the Koran),” General Iskandar said. “He preached about why the use of violence was justified as long as it served the good of religion.”

A Bashir lawyer, Mahendratta, said police similarly used suspects’ alleged statements to build their case against the Jemaah Islamiah founder for inciting the 2002 Bali bombings. His conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in December 2006.

“God wills differently; they cannot prove it in court,” Mr Mahendratta said.

Bashir, 72, was arrested on August 10 and charged with funding and planning a militant training camp in Aceh, northern Sumatra, which was broken up by the police’s Densus 88 anti-terrorism unit in January.

Police alleged in August that Bashir had been involved in the appointment of Abu Tholut, a former Jemaah Islamiah trainer convicted on terrorism charges but released early from prison, as commander of the camp.

Tholut and an associate, Taufik Hidayat, are now the police’s chief suspects for the North Sumatra bank raid and police station attack.

The Medan robbery was allegedly to raise funds for a planned new wave of terrorist attacks, this time aimed at the Indonesian state rather than exclusively at foreign, non-Muslim targets.

The fatal attack on Hamparan Perak police station with the killing of three officers was allegedly retaliation for the killing of robbery suspects in a police round-up three days beforehand.

Bashir is expected to be brought to trial on the Aceh matters in December.

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