Abu Bakar Bashir
Indonesian radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir greets supporters inside a courtroom following the first day of an appeal hearing in Cilacap, Central Java province, January 12, 2016.REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

The jailed spiritual leader of an al-Qaeda-linked Indonesian terror group has said that his sentence should be overturned as the funds he raised for a military-style training camp was an 'act of worship'. Caged cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, 77, appealed to a court in Indonesia on 12 January to have his conviction for funding a terror training camp overturned because it was God's order.

During the hearing he argued that his support for the camp was an 'act of worship' despite the Jemaah Islamiyah militant network being accused of planning attacks on foreigners in the capital, Jakarta, and the assassinations of moderate leaders, including former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The islamists were also blamed for the deadly 2002 Bali bombings which claimed the lives of 202 people.

In 2011 he was convicted of funding the so-called terror camp in the Aceh province and jailed for 15 years. But a higher court in the country later cut the sentence to nine years.

At the District Court in the central Java town of Cilacap, near to the prison island of Nusakembangan where he is currently incarcerated, he neither confirmed nor denied planning terror attacks. He did say, however, that the camp was designed to defend Muslims.

"The physical and weapons' training in Aceh were aimed at defending Islam and Muslims in Indonesia and overseas, and were an obligation Muslims must fulfil because it is God's order. My deed of helping the physical training in Aceh was merely an act of worship," said Bashir according to the South China Morning Post, who wore his traditional white turban and robe.

A lawyer representing Bashir said that he knew the camp violated firearms laws but he was merely following God's orders in supporting it. He also added that the funds he raised were also for religious use.

Outside the court hundreds of supporters showed support for the leader of the Islamist militant group as they gathered and waited for the cleric to arrive under heavy-guard and in armoured car. They yelled "Allah Akbar," or God is great, "Bashir is not a terrorist" and "Free Bashir."

The camp was said to have brought together men from every known extremist group operating in the region. The country is predominately Muslim and last month police say they foiled several terror plots by radical Islamist groups, some linked to the Islamic State (Isis).