Indonesian plotted on Facebook to attack Myanmar embassy

One of several terror suspects Separiano sits in a courtroom during his first trial in Jakarta on November 6, 2013 for alleged involvement in a plot to bomb the Myanmar embassy.

JAKARTA - A suspected Indonesian extremist plotted with other Islamic militants on Facebook to bomb the Myanmar embassy to avenge the killing of Rohingya Muslims in that country, a court heard Wednesday.

Separiano, 29, could face the death penalty over the plan to attack the mission in Jakarta in May, amid anger in Muslim-majority Indonesia at persecution of the Rohingya in mainly Buddhist Myanmar.

The suspect, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, was arrested the night before the planned attack as he rode a motorbike with another man allegedly involved in the plot.

Police said they found five pipe bombs in a backpack they were carrying.

Several men were arrested over the plot and Separiano is the first to go on trial.

Prosecutor Susilo told the South Jakarta District Court as his trial began that Separiano was radicalised over several years after attending sermons by an extremist preacher at a central Jakarta mosque.

He also attended several sermons by firebrand cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, the alleged spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah which was the terror network behind the 2002 Bali bombings.

It was on the social networking site Facebook that the suspect, who studied bomb-making on the Internet and had bought materials to make them, met the extremists with whom he hatched the embassy attack plot, the prosecutor said.

This was where he met the alleged mastermind of the plot, Sigit Indrajid, who leads the Negara Islam Indonesia (Islamic State of Indonesia) group.

In April the defendant often logged on to "his Facebook account and chatted with Sigit, who posted a lot of news about the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, which attracted a lot of comments saying there should be retaliation against the infidel Buddhists", the prosecutor said.

At one point Sigit posted on Facebook that people should target "the Myanmar embassy to avenge the slaughter of Muslims in Myanmar".

"We will set off our explosion as a surprise for the embassy" ahead of a demonstration by a radical group, Sigit wrote, according to the prosecutor.

In response, Separiano replied: "Yes, OK." When police arrested him, they seized chemicals and instructions for bomb-making that had been bought by the defendant and several others accused over the plot.

Sigit and another man have also been apprehended and are due to stand trial later.

Separiano, who appeared in court wearing an orange top with "detainee" written on it, is charged under two anti-terrorism laws.

He is accused of attempting to commission an act of terrorism or assisting in the commission of such an act; and plotting to commit a terrorist act that could result in victims or damage to buildings.

He could face the death penalty under the anti-terror laws although people charged with more serious crimes have in the past instead received lengthy prison sentences.

The plot to attack the embassy followed several outbreaks of anti-Muslim unrest in Myanmar, which have left many dead and tens of thousands displaced.

The soaring religious tensions have exposed deep fractures in the formerly junta-run country and cast a shadow over political reforms there.

The fate of the stateless Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar has attracted the most sympathy in Indonesia. Clashes in Rakhine state last year between Buddhists and the Rohingya left around 200 dead.

There have been numerous demonstrations by Indonesians expressing support for the minority. In August a small bomb went off at a Buddhist temple in Jakarta, slightly injuring one person.

The package that contained the explosive bore the words "We are responding to the screams of the Rohingya", witnesses said.

Rohingya, who are seen by many in Myanmar as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, are described by the United Nations as one of the world's most persecuted minorities.