'Prince of Jihad' on trial
Jakarta - An Islamist blogger who called himself the "Prince of Jihad" went on trial on Tuesday over deadly suicide attacks on luxury hotels in the Indonesian capital Jakarta last year.
Dozens of women covered from head-to-toe in black chanted "God is greater" as online publisher Mohammed Jibril Abdurahman, 25, appeared in court charged with concealing information about terrorist crimes and falsifying documents.
The July bombings killed seven people as well as two suicide bombers and ended a four-year hiatus in attacks attributed to late terror leader Noordin Mohammad Top and al-Qaeda-linked regional network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).
Prosecutors allege Mohammed Jibril was a close associate of Malaysian-born Noordin, who allegedly masterminded the bombings as the leader of his own JI splinter group called "al-Qaeda in the Malay Archipelago".
In their indictment they say he flew to Saudi Arabia in September, 2008 with another member of the network to secure funds for the hotel attacks.
Before the trip, Mohammed Jibril allegedly wrote an e-mail to his brother in the Saudi city of Mecca telling him about a meeting he had had with Noordin a year before the July 17 attacks.
He wrote that the Malaysian extremist needed money from the "Arab Mujahedeen", prosecutors said.
"Long story. We chatted a lot in the car. I was surprised. He's as usual. A lot of heavy tasks. Preacher N needs 100 million. Please pray that I'll get their sympathies," he wrote, according to prosecutors.
"You know the Arab Mujahedeen district in Mecca. One thing before they meet me is to look for Arab funding... Ah, mad big. Biggest after WTC. Secret, OK?"
The email apparently referred to the World Trade Centre in New York, one of the targets of al-Qaeda's attacks on September 11, 2001. It did not specify a currency for the 100 million.
Police have said they are investigating whether any money for the attacks on the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels came from al-Qaeda, which has given financial backing to Noordin and JI in the past.
But prosecutors did not specify if money had reached Noordin and did not charge Mohammed Jibril with raising funds for a terrorist act.
They said his fund-raising efforts would be part of their case in order to gain the maximum 15-year sentence for the charge of concealing information about a terrorist attack.
"The evidence for channelling funds is insufficient at this point, but we'll try to prove it in this trial," chief prosecutor Firmansyah told AFP.
"We'll prove he did go to Saudi, not only to carry out a minor pilgrimage, but also to solicit funds there."
Series of scenarios
Prosecutors said Mohammed Jibril had "emotional ties" to Noordin, who was his "psychology" teacher at a religious school in Malaysia in 1998.
Indonesian police killed Noordin in September, putting an end to a campaign of bombings designed to bring down the mainly Muslim country's democratic system and replace it with a Taliban-style regime.
Speaking to reporters outside the court, Mohammed Jibril, who is also the son of a radical cleric, dismissed the charges as "lies" but admitted he had met Noordin twice.
"This case has been engineered, part of a series of scenarios created by George Bush and his friends to make Islam an enemy. Obama knows about this matter but he doesn't want to do anything because he's blind," he said.
"Although I have to face the court, this is just a challenge. The fight will continue."
He was arrested near Jakarta six weeks after the bombings.
Police also raided the office of his website, Arrahmah.com, a well-known source of Islamist propaganda. The website was still in operation on Tuesday.
Mohammed Jibril also edited a publication called Jihadmagz which espoused "holy war" against the West.