Law enforcement officials said Friday they had finished assembling evidence against radical cleric Abubakar Baasyir and were preparing to schedule his trial on charges of involvement in a string of bombings in Indonesia, including an attack two years ago on nightclubs in Bali.
Though a Jakarta court acquitted Baasyir last year of allegations that he headed a militant underground group, Indonesian officials said they were now confident of proving that he was the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah, linked by intelligence officials to al Qaeda.
"We have enough new evidence of Abubakar Baasyir's involvement in a series of bombings in Indonesia since 1999, and we're working closely with the attorney general's office," said National Police Chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar. He added that the case file would be turned over to prosecutors shortly.
The latest developments came as Indonesian prosecutors opened another high-profile terrorism case this week against the younger brother of Hambali, a longtime Baasyir associate and the suspected operations chief for Jemaah Islamiah. Hambali's real name is Nurjaman Riduan Isamuddin.
Prosecutors accused Rusman Gunawan, 27, of helping to provide as much as $50,000 to militants behind the suicide car bombing last August of the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, which killed 12 people.
Gunawan, who had been living as a student in Pakistan, was asked by his brother to transfer the money from another activist, Amar Baluchi, through a series of intermediaries, according to Indonesian prosecutor Payaman. Some of the funds ultimately reached key planners of the Marriott attack, Payaman told the Jakarta court.
Gunawan has denied being involved in the Marriott plot.
Prosecutors also alleged that Gunawan, commonly known as Gun Gun, had led a group of militant Indonesian and Malaysian students living in Karachi, Pakistan. This group, dubbed al Ghuraba, was established by Hambali to groom a new generation of Southeast Asian militants, and several had received weapons training, investigators said.
Gunawan was arrested late last year, weeks after his brother was captured while hiding in Thailand. Gunawan was then turned over by Pakistani authorities to Indonesia along with five other students. Three of them also face terrorism charges in Indonesia, while two were released for lack of evidence. Other students from the al Ghuraba groups are now held in Malaysia.
Indonesian authorities have arrested and convicted dozens of militants in connection with the bombing of the Marriott and the earlier attack on the Bali nightspots, which killed 202 people.
In the latest conviction, a Jakarta court Wednesday sentenced Muslim activist Malikul Zurkoni to three years in prison for storing explosives used in the Marriott bombing. The judge said Zurkoni had provided TNT and detonators to Jemaah Islamiah's chief bomb maker, known as Dr. Azahari.
But Azahari himself has eluded investigators in Indonesia and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, who have named him as one of the region's most wanted men. Bachtiar, the police chief, said investigators had information that Azahari is still in Indonesia.
Police previously tracked Azahari to Bandung, a city on Indonesia's main Java island, only to see him slip through their dragnet. Bandung police said they suspected that Azahari might still be there and have raised the city's state of alert.
"We failed to arrest him in our last operation. We don't want this to happen again," said Bandung Police Chief Hendra Sukmana.
The U.S. State Department warned last week that Jemaah Islamiah or other terrorist groups might carry out attacks in advance of Indonesia's July 5 election for president. U.S. officials said they continued to recommend that Americans defer travel to Indonesia unless unavoidable.
But despite the heightened warnings and continuing campaign by police and prosecutors against suspected militants, Indonesian voters do not consider terrorism to be a significant concern as they prepare to head to the polls. A survey by the International Foundation for Election Systems released Thursday found that less than 1 percent of 1,250 respondents nationwide named terrorism as an issue they wanted candidates to address. Indonesians' top concerns were combating corruption, reducing inflation and creating jobs, according to the poll.
Special correspondent Noor Huda Ismail contributed to this report.