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Indonesian Prosecutors Ask for Eight-Year Jail Sentence for Bashir

  • Nancy-Amelia Collins

Indonesian prosecutors Tuesday asked for an eight-year jail sentence for a controversial Muslim cleric accused of having a role in a series of deadly bombings in the country over the past several years.

The prosecutors' request for an eight-year prison sentence for hard-line Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir falls short of the death sentence allowed under Indonesia's anti-terror law.

Bashir, alleged leader of the regional terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiyah, is charged with inciting his followers to carry out the 2002 bombing attack on Bali, which killed 202 people, and the bombing of the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta in 2003.

J.I. has been linked to the al Qaida terror network, and many of the group's members convicted in the two bombings were students at a school Bashir ran.

The prosecutors told the court Tuesday that Bashir was guilty of being involved in acts of terrorism that have cost lives or injured people.

However, the prosecutor says there is insufficient evidence to prove Bashir and his supporters planned the acts of terror or incited others to engage in terrorism.

The controversial cleric's trial began in November. One of Bashir's lawyers, Wirawan Adnan, says the prosecution failed to prove its case and should not have asked for an eight-year sentence.

"First of all my opinion to that is it's not realistic, it's groundless and I believe it's ridiculous because really what happened is the prosecution could not prove anything," he said. "We believe that there was insufficient evidence to support that kind of demand."

The prosecution presented only one witness to testify that Bashir is the leader of Jemaah Islamiyah. Other witnesses failed to link the 66-year-old cleric with the Bali or Marriott bombings.

Bashir has denied any involvement in the bombings and has also denied being the leader of Jemaah Islamiyah.

The Muslim cleric was first arrested and convicted of immigration violations shortly after the Bali bombing and was in jail during the Marriott hotel bombing.

After he completed his original sentence last April, he was immediately re-arrested for his alleged involvement in the bombings.

Mr. Bashir's lawyer, Mr. Wirawan, says he believes his client will spend more time in prison, but not the eight years prosecutors asked for.

"What I think is they probably could give Abu Bakar Bashir a lighter sentence than, a lot less than what the prosecutor is demanding, but they will not acquit Abu Bakar Bashir," he said.

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