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Indonesia High Court Rejects Bashir Terror Appeal

  • Tim Johnston

The High Court in the Indonesian capital Jakarta has rejected an appeal by terror leader Abu Bakar Bashir to have his conviction overturned. Bashir, a 66-year-old Muslim cleric who is accused of leading the regional militant group Jemaah Islamiyah, is serving a jail sentence for encouraging acts of terrorism.

Bashir was originally convicted last March, and sentenced to 30 months in jail for being part of the conspiracy that resulted in the October 2002 car bombing of a tourist nightclub on the island of Bali, an attack that killed more than 200 people, most of them young Westerners.

A court in Jakarta found that he had given one of the convicted members of the bombing team, Amrozi bin Nurhasyim, permission to carry out the attack. Lawyers for Bashir say that even if a discussion did take place between Amrozi and Bashir, it did not amount to conspiracy, and say that Amrozi never appeared in court to corroborate the testimony about the meeting.

One of Bashir's defense attorneys, Wirawan Adnan, said Monday they would continue to pursue the appeal, although there are some time constraints.

"We're going to raise the same argument to the Supreme Court. We have 14 days after officially the court handed down that verdict to us," he said.

Indonesian police and Western intelligence agencies say Bashir was the leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, or J.I., a regional militant group with ties to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network. The United States lists J.I. has a terrorist organization.

However, although Bashir has made little secret of his hatred of the West, he has always denied any links to J.I., and no court has formally found that he did lead the group.

J.I. has been linked to a number of attacks. In Indonesia, as well as the Bali bombing, it is believed to be responsible for attacks on churches in 2000, the car bombing of the Marriott Hotel, and last years' blast outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. In all, more than 240 people are thought to have died in J.I. bombings.

One of the men believed to have transported the embassy bomb, a 23-year-old named Anshori, went on trial in Jakarta Monday. If he is convicted, he could face the death penalty.

The Indonesian authorities have arrested hundreds of suspected militants and dozens have been convicted of involvement in the attacks. However, a small but significant number are still at large, and security analysts say they expect more attacks.

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