An Indonesian court convicted an Islamic terrorist guilty and sentenced him to 15 years in jail for concealing evidence from the 2002 Bali bombings and sheltering suspects; he had been on the run for over two decades.
Connection to the 2002 Bali bombings
Aris Sumarsono, 58, whose real identity is Arif Sunarso, better known as Zulkarnaen, had been previously sentenced to life in prison for assisting in the preparation of the explosives in the October 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people, 88 Australians and seven Americans.
JI carried out a number of other high-profile terrorist attacks in the early 2000s, all of which were tied to Zulkarnaen, in addition to the two busy Bali nightclubs, Sari Club and Paddy’s, he is also accused of commanding a JI operations squad that carried out an assault on August 5, 2003, in Jakarta, Indonesia. On that day, a car bomb went off outside the JW Marriot Hotel, killing 12 people and wounding 150 more.
Zulkarnaen is also suspected of killing 20 people in a series of church attacks, two more people in a 2000 bomb attack in Jakarta at the Philippine ambassador’s residence, nine people in a 2004 suicide attack outside the Australian Embassy, and 20 people in a 2005 bombing in Bali.
“I didn’t even know when the 2002 Bali bombings would take place,” Zulkarnaen said to the court in his plea last week.
The presiding judge informed the court, the accused was found guilty in a lawful and persuasive manner of carrying out an act of terrorism of the third charge. Zulkarnaen was aware of the terrorist acts but “did not tell police; instead, he harbored a terrorist suspect, including bomb-maker Upik Lawanga,” according to the court.
The prosecutors’ initial charge, however, was dismissed by a panel of three judges in East Jakarta District Court since the prosecution time had elapsed. According to Indonesia’s Criminal Code, the ability to prosecute offenders expires after 18 years, as a result, Zulkarnaen received just a 15-year sentence, of which one year had already been served.
Because of his links to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, the United Nations Security Council included Zulkarnaen to its al-Qaeda sanctions list. Zulkarnaen was considered one of al-Qaeda’s top spokesman in Southeast Asia at the time of his inclusion, as well as one of the few Indonesians with direct touch with Bin Laden’s network. The US State Department’s Rewards for Justice program granted up to $5 million for Zulkarnaen’s capture.
Executive Order 13224, issued by the US Department of the Treasury in May 2005, recognized Zulkarnaen as a member of JI’s central leadership and the apparent head of its military wing.
[He] was captured after interrogating several suspected militants arrested in previous raids, they gave up his hideout, and on December 10, 2020, Indonesian counterterrorism police arrested Zulkarnaen at a residence in East Lampung district on the island of Sumatra. Six days after his arrest, he was sent to Jakarta to face trial.
Indonesian authorities transferred 23 suspected militants arrested in recent weeks to the capital on Wednesday, including Upik Lawanga, who was escorted by police officers upon arrival at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Indonesia, Dec. 16, 2020.
He is suspected of working for the Jemaah Islamiyah network as a bomb maker. Late last month, he was arrested by Lampung anti-terrorism police. Lawanga has evaded capture since 2005, when he was listed as a suspect in a market attack in Poso that killed more than 20 people.
Zulkarnaen was seen as an extremely dangerous individual across the world, and Indonesian police have stated that they would continue to crack down on anything associated to his network.
Did you know one of Bali’s kings recently died? Read the story and watch the videos here.