The trial of Indonesian Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir [CFR profile] began Monday in the District Court of South Jakarta. Bashir is charged with operating a terrorist training camp [Jakarta Globe report] in the mountains of the northwestern province of Aceh to prepare Islamic radicals to carry out attacks in the capital of Jakarta. Prosecutors allege that this group was also planning attacks modeled after the Mumbai attacks [JURIST news archive] and were targeting high-profile members of the Indonesian government, including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono [BBC profile]. It was also charged at the opening of the trial that Bashir aimed to establish an Islamic state [Al Jazeera report], using the province of Aceh as a base from which to conduct operations. He also allegedly amassed Rp1 billion (USD $112,285) to purchase weapons for the group, and sought to justify robberies and murder to his followers as a necessary tool in waging a holy war, according to the prosecutor. In addition to multiple terror charges, Bashir is also charged with mobilizing people to commit terrorist acts [BBC report], charges that carry a potential death sentence. Following Monday's proceedings, the trial adjourned until Thursday when the defense will begin preliminary arguments. Bashir has maintained his innocence, arguing that the charges against him are part of a US conspiracy.
Bashir was originally charged in August [JURIST report], and was suspected of links to al Qaeda [CFR backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. He is also suspected of ties to Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) [CFR backgrounder], a terrorist group with links to al Qaeda that has been implicated in a multitude of attacks in Indonesia, including the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing [JURIST news archive] that left more than 200 people dead. In 2006, the Indonesian Supreme Court overturned [JURIST report] Bashir's conviction on conspiracy charges connecting him with the 2002 Bali bombings. He was released from prison [JURIST report] earlier in 2006 after spending 26 months in jail on different charges related to the bombings.