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Bashir Lawyers Want Charges Dropped

  • Nancy-Amelia Collins

Defense lawyers for Indonesian Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir have presented closing arguments in his terrorism trial. The attorneys argued charges should be dropped for a lack of evidence.

Some 30 supporters of Abu Bakar Bashir shouted, "Allah Akbar"or "God is great" as the 66-year-old militant Muslim cleric entered the Jakarta courtroom to protest his innocence.

In final defense arguments, Bashir said he is not guilty on charges of participating in the terrorist bombings in Bali in 2002 and at Jakarta's J.W. Marriott hotel in 2003.

The accused leader of the al-Qaida linked regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah told the court he was being framed by President Bush, who had pressured Indonesia to try him.

Bashir is on trial for inciting his followers to participate in the bombings that killed a total of 214 people. Prosecutors are asking for an eight-year jail sentence.

Many of those convicted in the terrorist bombings were students of a Muslim school run by Bashir.

But defense lawyer, Wirawan Adnan, disputes any proven links between his client and terrorism and wants all charges dropped.

"What we witness here in court is a trial against his thought, against what he thinks - of course we may disagree that he wants everyone in Indonesia to be Muslim," he said. " We may disagree on that. But it does not make him a criminal. He may say that he hates Americans or he hates the American policy or he hates the George Bush administration ... but that does not mean he deserves eight years of sentence."

The prosecution has struggled to prove its case against Bashir since the trial began in November.

It has produced only one witness to testify Bashir is the head of Jemaah Islamiyah, and other witnesses have failed to link the accused to the Bali or Marriott bombings.

Several governments, including the United States and Australia, have accused Bashir of being a terrorist and the head of J.I.

Bashir was first convicted on immigration violations after the Bali bombings and was in prison during the Marriott attack. After completing his sentence last April, Bashir was immediately re-arrested on new evidence in the two terrorist attacks.

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