Continuing a largely successful effort to dismantle a militant group responsible for Southeast Asia's most deadly terrorist attacks, Indonesia put the self-described military leader of the group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) on trial Wednesday.
Abu Dujana, 38, was arrested by the Indonesian police near his home in Central Java in June, and prosecutors allege he provided shelter to the bombmakers that carried out a devastating attack in Bali that killed over 200 people, most of them foreign tourists, in 2002.
Reuters reports that Mr. Dujana says he's innocent.
"It was said I sent explosives. The truth is I did not," he told reporters. He said the gun he carried was simply for self defence. "Self defence is an obligation for Muslims. There was no intention to use arms for terrorism," he said.
Dujana said in a video shown by police after his arrest that he had undergone rebel military training in the Pakistani city of Peshawar and in Afghanistan.
JI, believed to aspire to create an Islamic state linking Muslim communities in Southeast Asia, has in the past been linked to al Qaeda.
In addition to the charges of helping JI bombmakers Mohammed Noordin Top, still at large, and Azahari bin Husein, who was killed by the Indonesian police two years ago, Dujana is also accused of helping to drive a sectarian conflict in Indonesia's Central Sulawesi region that has left thousands dead, the Australian Associated Press reports.
The JI has fragmented and reorganized in the face of dozens of arrests in the past five years, the news service says.
He is also accused of keeping two caches of explosives and helping organize attacks in conflict-torn Poso, in Central Sulawesi.
Indonesia's elite antiterror squad Detachment 88 captured Dujana in Banyumas, Central Java, in June, shortly after police named him as their most-wanted terror suspect.
He was shot twice in the leg before he finally surrendered to police, the interrogation report said.
His arrest followed the discovery of two bunkers containing hundreds of kilograms of explosives and weapons beneath houses in Solo, Central Java, which police said could create a blast more powerful than the 2002 Bali bombs which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.
Experts believe JI has splintered and been reduced to a smaller operation because of an intense anti-terror operation in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines in recent years.
The British Broadcasting Corp. reports that the top JI leader, Zarkasih, who was captured at the same time as Dujana, will go on trial on Monday. Both men face a possible death sentence, though that outcome is unlikely.
At the time of Abu Dujana's arrest, Sidney Jones, an authority on the JI, wrote that his capture was a major blow for the weakened organization, but cautioned against too much optimism over recent successes. In particular, while she lauded Indonesia's decision to hold public trials for terrorism suspects, she warned that activists might return to their work when released from jail.
JI has been quick to replace those detained or killed: since 2002, for example, the head of JI-East Java has been replaced at least four times. But the ranks are not inexhaustible, and the age and level of experience are steadily going down. Looked at from the top down, there is no question that JI has weakened progressively over the last five years. That said, to understand its resiliency and adapability, it is important to look beyond the leaders to the ties that bind members to each other at the grassroots.
Kinship ties have been well-documented. Many members have older and younger siblings in the movement; some men marry sisters of their fellow mujahidin …
Indonesia's decision to try suspected terrorists in public trials and release those convicted when they have served their sentences is also absolutely the right thing to do, in the interests of upholding the rule of law. But it means that many people committed to an ideology that promotes violence are now coming out of prison and may return to their old networks. This makes what happens in prison all the more important. Are inmates going to be rehabilitated, or become more radical after four or five years in prison?
Indonesia appears to be well aware of these risks. Australia's Sydney Morning Herald reported in late November that Indonesia has focused on "deradicalizing" militants in prison, albeit with mixed results.
Official efforts to seduce jailed Indonesian terrorists with money and privileges are being undermined by corruption and rival efforts from new Islamic gangs.
In this battle for hearts and minds, controversial "deradicalisation" tactics behind prison walls - including senior police inviting Bali bombers to parties - have succeeded in winning over 22 convicted terrorists, according to an International Crisis Group study.
[But] Jemaah Islamiah prisoners have formed their own gangs inside several prisons, successfully recruiting inmates and even guards to their radical ideology, the study found. Prisoners have published hardline texts and held study groups and meetings via the internet and mobile phones.