Indonesian Supreme Court admits US aid for terrorism trials

Bagus BT Saragih in Jakarta/The Jakarta Post
Asia News Network

Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - New Indonesian Supreme Court chief justice, M. Hatta Ali, has admitted the court received financial aid from the United States in connection with trials of suspected terrorists.

"If some party wants to help us, why shouldn't we think about it? It was coincidental that the US offered us that assistance," Hatta told reporters after being sworn in by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the State Palace on Thursday.

"If the aid had come from another country we would also surely think about it, but that would not be as controversial as the assistance from the US, would it?" he added.

Hatta, however, denied that the assistance had been aimed at interfering with the judicial process. "I don't think so," he said when asked if the aid had been given in order to influence Indonesian judges.

According to Hatta, the assistance from the US had been used to enhance the security of the defendants' trials.

"Isn't it better for the US if we have metal detectors at court buildings and our security officers use bullet-proof vests?" he said, adding that the US never presented any other motive other than helping the courts to conduct trials safely and securely.

"I can guarantee that our judges are very independent and professional. They cannot be influenced in any way because they have been taught not to accept any form of intervention," Hatta added.

Last week, the Supreme Court announced that it had rejected an appeal filed by firebrand cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir and upheld the ruling made by the South Jakarta District Court in June sentencing Ba'asyir to 15 years in prison after finding him guilty of running a terrorist training camp in Aceh.

Ba'asyir responded the Supreme Court's decision by saying "it was in line with the US' order".

The US has also formally included hard-line Islamic group Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT), an extremist organization founded by Abu Bakar Ba'asyir in 2008, on its list of foreign terror networks.

The US Department of State said on its website that the group was responsible for multiple coordinated attacks against innocent civilians, police and military personnel in Indonesia.

"JAT has robbed banks and carried out other illicit activities to fund the purchase of assault weapons, pistols and bomb-making materials," the department said.