Written by By IW Cebulaya, CNN
Her face obscured by a white veil, Indonesian militant Upik Lawanga is seen leaving court in Solo on July 23, 2018.
A man who was a rising leader of the Islamic State-linked militant group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) in South Sulawesi, Indonesia has been sentenced to life in prison for terrorist offenses by a court in Aceh province, officials say.
The conviction of Upik Lawanga, who was sentenced on Monday, is the first of several trials to be held in Aceh this week for JAD, Indonesia’s first “terrorist” group since the adoption of a hardline legal framework in 2015.
The group’s leader Bahrun Naim is also facing trial on various charges, including charges of “masterminding” a terror attack on the island of Sulawesi in January 2016, in which five police officers were killed.
Several other senior figures in JAD are also facing charges of belonging to the group, and up to ten million rupiah ($760) in fines. The charges stem from an investigation on the island of Sulawesi into a JAD cell, after an incident in which JAD supporters attacked a police post, killing the five police officers.
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Not from the island
At the opening of his trial, Lawanga — who was born in Aceh in 1970 — told the court he didn’t hold a passport when he arrived in Indonesia, or even know where the island was. “I arrived in Indonesia from a home without a passport,” Lawanga told the court. “I am from Sulawesi, not the island of Sulawesi.”
The trial was held at the Banqilan Law Court in West Aceh, as the island in east Sumatra has long been a stronghold of JAD.
After operating openly on Sulawesi for years, the group — which was inspired by the Islamic State — relocated to Java after 2012, establishing a base in the town of Paisan. Lawanga, who was previously JAD’s Jadakim (chief) in Paisan, eventually arrived in Central Sulawesi.
JAD was also active in Java, but had been weakened by the government crackdown in recent years, leaving it with only two men, Bahrun Naim and Fajruddin Hasyim. While Lawanga is the first JAD member to be tried in the province, the sentence is not the first for Aceh, which is responsible for the prosecution of 19 individuals since 2015.
“Many expected a long sentence for Upik Lawanga,” says Hanura Mohommad, an independent security analyst from Indonesia, adding that Lawanga was “a well-known moderate leader in Aceh” when the government crackdown began.
Such a sentence makes Lawanga less likely to return to JAD, Mohommad adds. “It’s possible that the more militant members of JAD might try to get the conviction overturned and head back to Aceh.”
In addition to his trials for JAD, Lawanga — who denies being a JAD member — is also facing a criminal charges for his involvement in an armed robbery and abduction of a gold dealer during the financial crisis of 2000, according to the Jakarta Post.
Lawanga’s wife is expected to appeal the verdict, lawyers told the Jakarta Post.