UPDATE 1-Indonesia Islamist uses trial to blast U.S. "infidels"
* Firebrand cleric pleads innocence to terror charges
* Speech could inflame Islamist militants
* Bomb threat grounds flight, two policemen shot dead (Adds quotes, bomb threat)
By Olivia Rondonuwu
JAKARTA, May 25 (Reuters) - Indonesian Islamist cleric Abu Bakar Bashir used his final defence against charges of funding a militant group on Wednesday to denounce the United States for trying to stop Islamic preaching in the world's most populous Muslim nation.
Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for the frail Bashir, 72, who delivered a piercing speech accusing the government of being under U.S. influence.
Bashir does not command widespread support in Indonesia, but the speech could inflame hardcore Islamists who have already vowed reprisal attacks following the U.S. killing of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
Prosecutors said Bashir raised at least 350 million rupiah ($41,000) from supporters and funnelled some to a militant training camp discovered last year in a remote mountainous part of Aceh, a province on the northern tip of Sumatra island that observes sharia law.
"Prosecutors accused me of being behind Aceh and being its biggest financier -- it is an accusation and slander, with the interests of the pharaoh U.S. for me to be diminished from Indonesian society," Bashir told the South Jakarta court.
"Because my preaching is considered dangerous, and with this lifetime of jail, the dream of the pharaoh U.S. and its allies will come true."
Copies of the 55-minute speech were being sold at the court for 20,000 rupiah (2.30), with a form attached to join Bashir's group, Jema'ah Ansharut Tauhid, which has formally renounced violence but whose members have been involved in recent attacks including a suicide bombing at a police mosque on Java island.
Days prior to the trial, his followers invited people with text messages to attend "Bashir's Islamic lecture" in court. Hundreds of men in skull caps and women in burqas arrived, filling the public gallery and spilling into the court car park to watch it on television.
With fists in the air, they shouted "Allahu akbar," or "God is greatest".
Indonesia has seen success in recent years in tackling militant groups, and a period of political stability and strong economic growth has turned Southeast Asia's top economy into an emerging market favourite among investors, though security risks remain.
National airline Garuda Indonesia delayed a flight in the second biggest city of Surabaya on Java island after a bomb threat. A navy official told a local news website that a bag was found containing explosive materials.
To the north of the sprawling archipelago, on the island of Sulawesi, two policemen guarding a BCA bank branch were shot dead by unidentified men. The area has in the past suffered from Muslim-Christian conflict, while on Sumatra island militant groups have previously robbed banks to raise funds.
Police say militants at the Aceh camp in Sumatra were hatching several plots including an attack on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and hoped to turn Indonesia into an Islamic state.
As well as being the spiritual leader of JAT, Bashir was considered the spiritual leader of the outlawed and now-defunct Jemaah Islamiah, which police have blamed for several bombings including the country's worst ever militant attack, the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.
Bashir ended his speech with a prayer to crush those he considered enemies of Indonesian Muslims.
"Lord, you have showered the infidels, the zionists, the Americans, the Europeans and their allies with wealth, technology and strong-arm equipment but it was used instead to attack your religion and slaughter your fighters. "Lord, exterminate wealth, technology, and lock dead their heart, because they are faithless and therefore deserve bitter torture from you."
A verdict is not due until June.
($1 = 8,567 Rupiah) (Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Nick Macfie)
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