Convicted terrorist Abu Bakar Bashir has blasted the police’s “lenient” action against members of a Papuan pro-independence group allegedly plotting a coordinated bombing attack, calling it proof that the government was waging war against Islam.
Hasyim Abdullah, a lawyer for the firebrand cleric, said on Tuesday that Bashir was outraged at the “unfairness” between his treatment by the authorities and the handling of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) members who were reportedly planning a series of bombings in the restive province last week.
“This is proof that the police have acted unfairly [toward Bashir],” he said at the National Police headquarters.
“If it was Muslims arrested plotting that kind of thing, they would be branded terrorists and charged under the Anti-Terrorism Law. But because they’re not Muslims, they aren’t called terrorists and they don’t face terrorism charges.”
The nine KNPB members arrested last Saturday have all been charged with the illegal possession of firearms and explosives under the 1951 Emergency Law.
They are alleged to have been behind a foiled scheme to bomb several key government targets in Wamena, Jayawijaya district, last Friday.
The reported targets included the municipal police station, two military bases, a ward office next to the district police headquarters, and the Baliem Bridge.
During the operations to scupper the coordinated attack and arrest the alleged perpetrators, police seized plastic explosives, pipe bombs, detonators, Molotov cocktails and gasoline.
They also found Rp 13.6 million ($1,400) in cash and the banned Morning Star flag used by separatist groups.
A human rights group doubted the veracity of the police report, calling the evidence “fabricated.”
The KNPB has historically been considered a peaceful pro-independence group.
But Hasyim said that Bashir believed the wealth of evidence warranted far more serious charges than those under the Emergency Law.
“It’s simply not fair. The war on terror that is being waged by the government of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is nothing less than an attack on Islam,” he said.
“If the perpetrators aren’t Muslim, the punishment is very different.”
Bashir is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence handed down last year for his role in raising funds for a militant training camp in Aceh.
The alleged spiritual head of Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah, Bashir has also been linked to the Bali bombings of 2002 and 2005 and the Christmas Eve church bombings of 2000.
Police have played down the cleric’s latest outburst, saying his claims of unfair treatment are unfounded.
Sr. Comr. Agus Rianto, a National Police spokesman, said Bashir was labeled a terrorist because the cases for which he was convicted were terrorist acts.
He added it was still too early in the investigation into the Wamena case to be able to classify it as either a terrorist incident or a separatist incident.