The alleged leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah militant network went on trial yesterday in the Indonesian capital, ratcheting up the battle against radical Islam in the world's most populous Muslim nation.
Zarkasih, 45, was charged with conspiracy to commit terrorist attacks, harboring fugitives and possession of illegal weapons and ammunition in a trial at the South Jakarta District Court. He could face the death penalty if found guilty.
Zarkasih, who goes by a single name as well as several other aliases, was not required to enter a formal plea as his trial began.
Members and associates of Jemaah Islamiyah took part in the 2002 nightclub bombings on the resort island of Bali after coming under the influence of al-Qaeda. The attacks killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.
Zarkasih was arrested early this year on Java island along with Jemaah Islamiyah military commander Abu Dujana, who went on trial last week on the same charges.
Prosecutors accuse the two men of shipping weapons and explosives to Sulawesi island, which was the scene of a brutal war between Muslims and Christians between 1999 and 2003.
The pair are also alleged to have hidden Malaysian fugitive Noordin Top, who is believed to have mastermind the Bali attacks as well as four other major strikes against Western targets in Indonesia, the last one also on Bali in 2005.
Jemaah Islamiyah was formed in the 1990s by Indonesians who had fought or trained in Afghanistan.
The group's leadership encouraged its members to train for jihad and sent fighters to the southern Philippines, but likely did not approve or know about the Bali operation or the other attacks in Indonesia, police and ex-members say.
Indonesia has arrested and convicted dozens of members of the group in recent years, with most receiving sentences of between three and 10 years. The country has not made membership of Jemaah Islamiyah a criminal offense.
Courts have handed down tough sentences against terrorists convicted in the bombings, however, with four on death row and several others facing life term or lengthy sentences.
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