Rusman Gunawan, brother of alleged international terrorist Hambali, went on trial Monday on charges that he helped finance the suicide car bombing at the Jakarta J.W. Marriott Hotel, which killed 12 people in August.
In a courtroom crowded with journalists and Gunawan’s supporters, prosecutors read a seven-page indictment accusing the 26-year-old of helping transfer as much as $50,000 to the Marriott bombers while he was living in Pakistan.
“The defendant was involved in an evil conspiracy and purposely supplied or gathered funds with the intention that they would be used for a terror crime,” said prosecutor Payaman, who, like many Indonesians, goes by one name.
Authorities say Gunawan, commonly known by his nickname Gun Gun, was the leader of a Pakistan-based cell of Jemaah Islamiah, a terrorist network affiliated with Al Qaeda. Jemaah Islamiah is based primarily in Southeast Asia and is known to have operated in as many as nine countries, including Australia.
Hambali, a Muslim cleric whose real name is Encep Nurjaman, allegedly established the Pakistani cell in Karachi in 1999 to train operatives and future leaders of Jemaah Islamiah. Known as Al Ghuraba, Arabic for The Foreigners, the cell also served as a link between Jemaah Islamiah and Al Qaeda, prosecutors say.
Last September, a month after Hambali’s arrest in Thailand, Pakistani authorities broke up the Karachi cell, arresting and deporting more than a dozen Malaysians, Singaporeans and Indonesians, including Gunawan.
Gunawan and three other Indonesians are facing trial in Jakarta on terrorism charges and could receive the death penalty. Malaysia and Singapore have detained seven other alleged cell members without trial for at least two years under their internal security laws.
According to Gunawan’s indictment, Hambali directed his younger brother to initiate the transfer of as much as $50,000 to the Marriott bombers from a man called Amar Balachi, through a series of intermediaries.
Authorities say at least $30,000 of the money ended up in the hands of Ismail, one of the Marriott plotters, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where much of the planning for the attack occurred.
Gunawan, who sat in the front row of the courtroom and talked with reporters before his court session, denied any connection to the bombing. He also denied belonging to Jemaah Islamiah and said Al Ghuraba was only a study group of foreign students.
He said he opposed the use of violence to further the aims of Islam but acknowledged that he had received weapons training at the Al Farooq camp operated by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
“It is forbidden to kill,” he said. “I totally disagree with murdering or bombings.”
Gunawan said he never met Asmar Latin Sani, the suicide bomber who drove the van loaded with explosives that detonated outside the lobby of the Marriott. Most of those killed were Muslim taxi drivers. One foreigner, Dutch banker Hans Winkelmolen, also died.
With its high proportion of Muslim victims, the bombing appears to have reduced support among Indonesians for militant Islam. Dozens of Jemaah Islamiah members, including top leaders who helped plan the Bali nightclub bombing that killed 202 people in October 2002, have been arrested.
In recent weeks, authorities have warned that Jemaah Islamiah had changed tactics, moving away from large-scale bombings and seeking to assassinate high-profile Western diplomats, businessmen and Indonesian officials. The Wall Street Journal reported this month that a Jemaah Islamiah assassination team had slipped into Indonesia from the Philippines and was preparing to carry out attacks.
The Pakistani cell apparently demonstrates the close family ties that bind Jemaah Islamiah. It also may exemplify the long-range planning Islamic extremists bring to their mission of establishing an Islamic state spanning a number of countries.
Authorities say the cell was set up to prepare a new generation of leaders to take over Jemaah Islamiah. Before Gunawan became head of the Al Ghuraba cell, Singaporean authorities say, its leader was Abdul Rachim, the son of alleged Jemaah Islamiah leader Abu Bakar Bashir.
Bashir, who recently served 18 months in an Indonesian prison for forgery, remains under arrest in Jakarta, the capital, and may soon face trial on terrorism charges. Rachim, who returned to Indonesia before the Pakistani cell was broken up, remains free and is teaching at his father’s school in the Javan city of Solo. Father and son deny any connection to terrorism.
During the courtroom interview, Gunawan said he was the closest member of his family to Hambali but had not seen him since 2001, in Pakistan. Since his capture, Hambali has been held by U.S. authorities at an undisclosed location.
Gunawan rejected a contention by the prosecutor that members of the Al Ghuraba cell were prepared to carry out suicide attacks.
“I still want to live,” he said. “Let’s see the facts in court.”