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Lawyers for Indonesian Cleric Demand His Freedom - 2002-11-04


Lawyers in Indonesia say an Islamic cleric suspected of having ties to terrorist networks was arrested illegally and should go free. Abu Bakar Bashir is being held in connection with bombings that took place two years ago; his arrest came as Jakarta faces mounting international pressure to crackdown on militant Islamic groups.

Lawyers for Abu Bakar Bashir told a Jakarta district court on Monday that his detention had no legal basis. They argued the police did not have proper evidence to hold him.

The lawyers filed a lawsuit against the police and asked the court to annul his arrest and let Mr. Bashir go free.

Mr. Bashir is suspected of heading Jemaah Islamiyah, a group the United States and the United Nations classify as a terrorist organization tied to the al-Qaida terror network. He is being investigated for a series of church bombings in 2000, as well as an alleged plot to assassinate Indonesia's president. His detention follows a deadly bombing last month on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, which killed at least 180 people - most of them foreign tourists.

So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the Bali bombing. However, Jemaah Islamiyah is suspected in the attack.

Mr. Bashir, who runs an Islamic school in central Indonesia, denies any wrongdoing and says Jemaah Islamiyah does not exist.

Also Monday, Indonesian police said they were closing in on three men wanted for questioning in the Bali bombing. Police did not release the men's names.

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