Mon, 22 Dec 2003

Mukhlas to testify in Jamaah Islamiyah leader

Death row convict Mukhlas alias Ali Gufron is in Jakarta to take the stand as a vital witness in the trial of Abu Rusydan, who is charged with harboring him during the police manhunt earlier this year.

The trial is scheduled to start on Monday in the South Jakarta District Court.

Sources in the Jakarta Police said on Sunday that Mukhlas, who was sentenced to death for his role in the Bali bombings, was currently in a headquarters' detention cell.

City police spokesman Sr. Comr. Prasetyo confirmed that Mukhlas had been sent Jakarta from the Kerobokan penitentiary in Denpasar, Bali.

"Yes, we have been requested to guard him (Mukhlas) as a witness in the trial of Abu Rusydan. Our task is only to ensure his safety here," he said, declining to go into the details of the security measures being taken by the police.

Rusdyan claimed that Mukhlas was present at two meetings attended by members of Jamaah Islamiyah (JI). The JI is on the United Nation's list of regional terrorist networks.

One meeting was held in April 2002 in Puncak, West Java, and the other on Oct. 17, 2002, five days after the Bali bombings, at the Al Risyad hotel in Tawangmangu, Karanganyar, in Central Java.

Mukhlas was arrested on December 2002 in Klaten, Central Java.

Rusydan also said he was asked by the attendees at the April 2002 meeting to replace Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir as JI's spiritual leader. He accepted the position at the October meeting.

Ba'asyir has been sentenced to three years in jail for immigration offences and document forgery. The High Court overturned the lower court's conviction of Ba'asyir for treason on the ground of his alleged leadership of JI.--JP