Thu, 29 May 2003

Witnesses give new insight into JI network in Indonesia

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Three witnesses provided on Wednesday new insights into the Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) terror network in the country but did not link suspected JI leader Abu Bakar Ba'asyir to charges over treason and document forgery.

Mubarok, alias Hutomo Pamungkas, said that he came to know the organization in the North Sulawesi capital of Manado in 1998 after he spent several years in Pakistan and Malaysia to learn Islamic studies.

He, who was previously a student of Ba'asyir in his boarding school in Central Java, said that he was recruited by Mustafa who had just arrived from Malaysia.

"He (Mustafa) told me that he was the mantiqi three," Mubarok told the court, referring to the organization's term for an area leader.

Mustafa, whose whereabouts is unknown, told him about the structure of the organization.

"The leader is Abdullah Sungkar. There are three mantiqi under him," said Mubarok, who said that he once was a wakalah -- another term for a leader in the organization at a lower level.

In 1999, he said that he met a man called Zulkarnaen alias Daud. The man told him that he was his subordinate.

"He also said that he would take me and colleagues to Ba'asyir as he has a direct relationship with the ustadz," Mubarok said, referring to Ba'asyir.

Zulkarnaen is currently at large.

Mubarok said yes when a judge asked him if the organization was a secret one.

When the judge asked him whether Ba'asyir was the Jamaah Islamiyah amir or leader, he replied, "You could say so."

Later, he met Fahim, another wakalah covering the Surabaya area who told him about the replacement of Abdullah Sungkar, the first head of JI.

Mubarok was silent for a moment when a judge asked him about the person who replaced Sungkar.

"Abu Bakar Ba'asyir," he said, when a judge reminded him that he was under oath.

Another witness, Ali Imron, also testified that he believed Ba'asyir had became head of JI following Sungkar's death in 1999.

"As far as I know, his (Sungkar's) successor was Abu Bakar Ba'asyir," said Imron.

However, at another point in his testimony, Imron said he was unsure who led the group.

Ba'asyir denied the testimony, "It's not true."

Later in the day, another witness Ali Ghufron alias Mukhlas told the court that he knew Osama bin Laden, the leader of al- Qaeda terrorist network, well.

JI, which is blamed for the Bali bombings that killed 202 people last October and for a string of other blasts in the country, is said to have links with al-Qaeda.

Ghufron is said to be JI's operations chief.

Asked by one of the judges if he knew Osama, Ghufron replied said: "Yes, I know him well."

But he said that Osama did not assist his activities.

Ghufron admitted he had taken over from a man called Hambali, the alleged former JI operations chief, after Hambali was forced to flee Malaysia.

"I don't know what mantiqi is. But I replaced Hambali," he said.

Imam Samudra, meanwhile, said that Ba'asyir had never ordered any bombing and labeled his preaching "boring".

"It's the age of the Internet but he still talked about mysticism while Muslims were being slaughtered," said Imam, who denied any relationship with JI.

The four witnesses are the main suspects of the Bali bombings.

All of them also admitted that they had visited Malaysia, Pakistan and Afghanistan over several years and that they were involved in several bombings in the country since 2000.

Prosecutors have accused Ba'asyir of committing treason by leading the network and for his involvement in incidents ranging from a plot to kill President Megawati Soekarnoputri when she was vice president to a string of church bombings in 2000.