Indonesia jails prominent former JI member over Bali bombings

Zulkarnaen, who had been on the run for almost 20 years before he was caught, was jailed for 15 years over attacks that left more than 200 dead.

An Indonesian police officer in beige uniform stands amid the wreckage of blackened cars and ruined buildings after the 2002 Bali bombings
Zulkarnaen has been jailed by an Indonesian court for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings in which more than 200 people were killed [File: Jonathan Drake/Reuters]

An Indonesian court has sentenced Zulkarnaen, a senior member of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) hardline group, to 15 years in prison over the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.

Zulkarnaen, a former military commander in al-Qaeda-linked JI, was on trial not only for the Bali bombings but also for several other attacks carried out by a group under his command.

“[He] is guilty of committing terrorism and is sentenced to 15 years behind bars,” the presiding judge at East Jakarta District Court said on Wednesday, punishing him for assisting militants, hiding information about attacks, and his association with the JI cell.

The 58-year-old had been on the run for almost two decades after being named a suspect in the Bali attacks. The judge, who could not be named for security reasons based on the country’s anti-terrorism law, announced the 15-year jail term after the prosecution had asked for a life sentence.

Zulkarnaen’s lawyer Asludin Hatjani said the jail sentence was too long and he would discuss an appeal with his client.

Police and prosecutors accused Zulkarnaen of playing a role in making the bombs used in the Bali attacks, and in the 2003 bombing of the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta that killed 12 people.

During the trial, Zulkarnaen said he was the leader of JI’s military wing, but denied any involvement in the nightclub bombings.

Zulkaernen in orange prison top and white sarong is escorted by armed police from a plane at Jakarta airport after his capture in December 2020
Zulakrnaen was captured in Sumatra in December 2020 after years on the run, and flown to Jakarta to stand trial [File: Fajrun Raharjo/AFP]

Analyst Stanislaus Riyanta warned that despite being sentenced to a jail term, Zulkarnaen should be monitored even when behind bars.

“He can spread his radical ideology in prison,” he told the Reuters news agency.

Three of the main perpetrators of the Bali bombings were sentenced to death in Indonesia and executed, while a fourth, Ali Imron, was given a life sentence after he apologised and expressed remorse.

Another suspect, Encep Nurjaman, better known as Hambali, has been held by the United States in Guantanamo Bay for 16 years.

He is one of the few people held there to have been charged, and faces a military commission.

Indonesia set up an elite police unit called Densus 88 in the wake of the Bali attacks.

While JI has been weakened significantly, other groups, such as Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), have become increasingly prominent. It was banned in 2018 after a series of suicide bombings.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies