JAKARTA, Indonesia – One of Indonesia's top terrorism suspects went on trial Monday on charges of helping set up a terrorist training camp for a group that plotted attacks on foreigners and assassinations of the country's moderate Muslim leaders.
The trial of Abu Tholut began days after a hard-line cleric was sentenced to 15 years in prison for supporting the same jihadist camp.
Tholut, 50, is accused of procuring M16 assault rifles and other weapons for the camp, which was raided early last year in westernmost Aceh province, prosecutor Bambang Suharyadi told the West Jakarta District Court. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Arrested in December, Tholut is one of more than 120 alleged members of the "Tanzim Al Qaeda in Aceh" group to have been captured or killed since the camp was uncovered. More than 50 of those men have been sentenced to prison.
Radical Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, co-founder of the al-Qaida-linked Islamist movement Jemaah Islamiyah, was last week sentenced to 15 years for supporting the camp.
Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, was thrust onto the front lines of the battle against terrorism in 2002, when Jemaah Islamiyah militants bombed two crowded nightclubs on the resort island of Bali, killing 202 people, many of them foreign tourists. There have been several attacks since then, but all have been far less deadly.
Police have said the Aceh group was plotting Mumbai-style gun attacks on foreigners at luxury hotels in the capital of Jakarta and assassinations, including of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to punish the government for supporting the U.S.-led anti-terrorism fight.
Tholut, also known as Mustofa, became one of Indonesia's most wanted fugitives after master bomb-makers Noordin M. Top and Dulmatin were gunned down early last year in police raids.
He was convicted for involvement in a 2001 bomb blast at a shopping plaza in central Jakarta that wounded six, and he served five years of an eight-year sentence after getting remission for good behavior. Like dozens of other convicted Indonesian extremists, he returned to his terror network after he was released.
Nasir Abas — a former militant who has helped police track down and arrest several members of his network — said Tholut had been a combatant in Afghanistan and an "excellent instructor" who helped train Islamist militants in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao.
Judges adjourned the trial until next week, when Tholut's lawyers are due to respond to the charges.