SOLO, Indonesia (AFP) - – Indonesian police on Tuesday revealed fresh details of the terrorism allegations against radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, saying he was the figurehead of a new Al-Qaeda-style terror network.
National Anti-Terror Agency (BNPT) director Petrus Golose said the grizzled 72-year-old preacher was assembling a new network featuring some of the region's most wanted militants when their plans were discovered in February.
"Abu Bakar Bashir is their leader," he said at a press conference in Solo city, Central Java province, where police arrested Abu Tholut, seen as one of the most dangerous alleged extremists in the mainly Muslim country, last week.
Bashir was arrested in August and remains in custody awaiting trial on charges including inciting terrorist acts, which carries the death penalty.
It is the third time the bespectacled cleric has been arrested on terror-related charges since 2002 but police have failed to make any of the allegations stick.
Radical Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, second left, accompanied by his lawyer Achmad Midhan, third left, is escorted by police officers as he arrives to sign his dossier at the district prosecutor's office in Jakarta,Indonesia, Monday, Dec. 13, 2010. Bashir was arrested in August this year for allegedly helping set up and fund a new terror cell that was plotting high-pro.
He served almost 26 months for conspiracy over the 2002 bombings of tourist nightspots in Bali that killed more than 200 people, before being cleared and released in 2006.
Golose showed a hierarchical chart with Bashir on top of a tree featuring extremists such as Tholut, Abdullah Sonata, who was arrested in June, and slain Al-Qaeda-trained bomb-maker Dulmatin.
Dulmatin had a 10-million-dollar US bounty on his head when he was killed by Indonesian police in March, and allegedly masterminded the Bali bombings for regional terror outfit Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).
"These main figures reported directly to Abu Bakar Bashir in terms of funding, operational and arms supplies," Golose said.
Bashir is outspoken in his praise for Islamic "holy warriors" -- or terrorists in the eyes of the authorities -- but has always denied being the spiritual leader of JI.
In recent years he formed the equally radical but supposedly legitimate Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) to push for an Islamic state in Indonesia, a country of 240 million people, 80 percent of whom are Muslims.
Police say Bashir and other senior members of JAT were involved in financing and organising a secret extremist network dubbed "Al-Qaeda in Aceh" which was discovered running a training camp in Aceh province in February.
Hundreds of alleged militants have been arrested or killed in police operations since the Aceh network was discovered.
National police spokesman Iskandar Hasan said Bashir provided finance and leadership for the Aceh group.
"On November 2009, Abu Tholut, Abdullah Sonata and Dulmatin decided to carry out military training in Aceh and they asked Abu Bakar Bashir to be the leader, while Sonata and Dulmatin's role was to provide weapons," he said.
Police have said the group was training to carry out Mumbai-style attacks by small groups of suicide gunmen on Western targets and political figures in Jakarta.