An Indonesian Muslim leader has challenged his conviction and the 15-year jail sentence handed out to him for incitement of "terrorism" and supporting a training camp for fighters in the Aceh province.

The 78-year-old Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, who is Indonesian of Yemeni origins, launched an appeal against the conviction and attended a court session on Tuesday in Cilacap, a town in Indonesia's Central Java province.

He condemned police and prosecutors and lashed out against people he calls "kafirs", or disbelievers. 

Ba'asyir, accused of being the spiritual leader for the Jemaah Islamiyah group, was convicted in 2011.

His legal team is arguing that funds he collected were intended to help people in the Palestinian territories but ended up getting sent to the Aceh group without his knowledge.

Al Jazeera's Step Vaessen, reporting from the court, said hundreds of supporters travelled for many hours to express their anger over the conviction.

Supporters travelled for many hours to show their anger over the conviction [EPA]

"His fierce language led to expressions of support among hundreds of his followers, many who travelled up to six hours to attend his trial," she said.

Although he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group last year while in prison, his son Abdurrahim told Al Jazeera he has distanced himself from it.

Jemaah Islamiyah has been blamed for the 2002 Bali bombings and a string of other attacks in Indonesia.

Ba'asyir denies the allegations against him, claiming that Western governments orchestrated his incarceration due to his campaigning for Islamic law in Indonesia. 


READ MORE: Is political Islam rising in Indonesia?


Speaking to the DPA news agency, Ba'asyir's lawyer, Ahmad Michdan, decried his client's jail sentence as a "gross injustice".

The hearing will resume on January 26.

Ba'asyir was a teacher at the Al-Mukmin Islamic school he cofounded in Central Java until early 2002, when officials in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia first publicly accused him of being a key leader of the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah.

The cleric was accused by Ali Imron, who was convicted of the Bali bombing, to be the mastermind of the 2002 blast that killed 202 people.

In 2011, Ba'asyir was acquitted of the Bali bombing charges and, instead, imprisoned for 15 years on terrorism charges.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies