* 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 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
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
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
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
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)