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Indonesian Cleric Files Slander Lawsuit Against <i>Time</i> Magazine - 2002-10-01


An Islamic preacher in Indonesia is filing legal suit against the American magazine Time because he says it slandered him by calling him a terrorist. Abu Bakar Bashir is suspected by the United States and some Asian governments of being a terrorist ringleader in Southeast Asia. Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir says the accusations made against him in Time magazine are "lies and slander."

Lawyers for Mr. Bashir filed a criminal complaint against the magazine on Tuesday at Indonesia's National Police Headquarters in Jakarta. Mr. Bashir is also calling on Indonesian police to investigate what Time says are secret documents it obtained which it used to make its case against him. Time published a story last month citing Central Intelligence Agency documents and regional intelligence reports. Based on that information, the magazine reported that a Kuwaiti man, Omar al-Faruq, was arrested in Indonesia in June and sent to U.S. authorities for questioning. The magazine reports that Mr. al-Faruq is a top al-Qaida operative in Southeast Asia and had been planning attacks on American embassies across the region. It also says that Mr. al-Faruq was in close contact with Mr. Bashir, whom the magazine says is the leader of the Jemaah Islamiah, a suspected terrorist organization. Mr. Bashir has consistently denied that he has any links with terrorist organizations and that he has ever met Mr. al-Faruq. He called those allegations "a hundred percent lies," saying he does not know him at all. It is not clear exactly who from the magazine would face criminal charges. It is not the first time that Mr. Bashir has fought to defend his reputation. He tried to file suit against Singapore earlier this year, after the government alleged Mr. Bashir was the head of the regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah, an accusation he says is false. JI, as it is known, is intent on creating a pan-Islamic state across Southeast Asia. The U.S. government also remains suspicious of Mr. Bashir. Last week, senior U.S. diplomat Matthew Daley said that Washington is considering whether to put JI on its list of international terrorist organizations. He referred to JI as the "Abu Bakar Bashir organization." Despite the pressure to take action against Mr. Bashir, the Indonesian government says it does not have sufficient evidence against him to justify an arrest. But officials say they continue to monitor Mr. Bashir's activities.

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