10 suspected Islamic militants tried in Indonesia for killing of Christian teacher, bomb plot

Jakarta, Indonesia - Ten suspected Islamic militants went on trial Tuesday in an Indonesian court for allegedly killing a Christian schoolteacher and plotting to bomb a cafe.

The defendants, including a Singaporean who allegedly met al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, face sentences of up to life in prison if convicted on charges of illegal possession of explosives, murder, plotting a terrorist attack and harboring fugitives.

The men are suspected members of the Southeast Asian terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah, which is accused of carrying out several suicide bombings against Western targets in Indonesia since 2002, including bombings on the resort island of Bali, their indictment said.

The men formed an "evil conspiracy and carried out violence that created a widespread atmosphere of terror and fear," prosecutor Totok Bambang told the court in an opening statement.

Charges were read out Tuesday for three suspects, including lead Singaporean defendant Mohammad Hasan, who had previously been identifed by prosecutors by one of his aliases, Fajar Taslim. The trials of seven others were postponed by a week after they told the judge they had just received their indictments.

The men were arrested in police raids last July in which authorities seized 22 explosive devices packed with bullets. They were allegedly intended to cause maximum damage at a bar frequented by non-Muslims, Kafe Bedudel, in a hilly resort town on the island of Sumatra.

The attack was apparently called off after the plotters realized it might unintentionally kill Muslims.

The men are also accused of fatally shooting Indonesian teacher Dago Simamora in front of his 9-year-old son in 2007 in the south Sumatran town of Palembang, the indictment said. They also attempted to kill Catholic priest in 2005, prosecutors allege.

Hasan, a 35-year-old Singaporean English teacher of Pakistani heritage, is allegedly a member of a Singaporean cell believed to have plotted to hijack a plane in Bangkok in 2002 and crash it into the international airport there.

Hasan allegedly met with al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden several times in 2000 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he received basic military training for about five months, Bambang said. Hasan also allegedly had connections with leading operatives in Southeast Asia's Jemaah Islamiyah.

Prosecutors said Hasan was a courier in 2000 between bin Laden in Afghanistan and top al-Qaida operative Hambali, suspected of links to hijackers in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Hambali, whose real name is Riduan Isamuddin, was turned over to U.S. authorities after being arrested in Thailand in 2003. He was detained at Guantanamo, where he was never formally charged.

Police have accused Jemaah Islamiyah, formerly funded by al-Qaida, of carrying out five suicide bombings in Indonesia that killed more than 240 people, including the Bali attacks in 2002 and 2005.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, has convicted scores of Islamic militants in its fight against terrorism. Three men were executed last year for the Bali bombings.