Jakarta: Twenty-one suspected Islamist
militants went on trial on Thursday on charges of plotting attacks
on foreign aid workers and others in Indonesia`s Aceh province
following a deadly tsunami.
The defendants, who appeared in eight separate trials
at the West Jakarta District Court, are among more than 100
suspects who have been rounded up or killed after the
discovery of a new terror cell in February.
Prosecutors said the defendants set up a military
training camp in Aceh to prepare to fight "infidels".
"Their targets were foreign workers," said Feritas,
who represents the state in several of the cases. He said the
men believed relief workers who poured into the region after
the 2004 tsunami were guilty of proselytizing.
"They also think Americans, Britons and Australians
support and help Israel kill Muslims in many countries," he
All of the defendants, who have not yet entered pleas,
are accused of violating the anti-terror law, for which they
can face up to 20 years in jail.
Indonesia, a secular nation with the world`s largest
population of Muslims, has been hit by a string of terror
attacks in recent years blamed on al-Qaida-linked militants.
Most people in the country of 237 million practice a moderate
form of the faith, but Aceh is known for its strict
enforcement of Islamic values.
That was one of the reasons the province was chosen as
a base for the new cell named "al-Qaida in Aceh," terror
experts say. The cell reportedly consists of militants from
several different regional terror networks, including Jemaah
Feritas, who like many Indonesians uses only one name,
said the suspects planned to kill aid workers and attack
churches, UN offices and all other Western symbols.
One of the men facing trial is accused of shooting and
injuring Erhard Bauer, a German Red Cross worker, in Aceh last
year. He is also accused of throwing grenades at a UN
Children`s Fund office. No one was injured in that attack.
Indonesia straddles a series of fault lines that make
the vast island nation prone to volcanic and seismic activity.
The giant quake that triggered the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami
killed 230,000 people, half of them in Aceh.