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Pakistan Deports Six Indonesian Students as Terror Suspects - 2003-12-02

Pakistan is deporting to Indonesia six students detained by Pakistani authorities on suspicion of terrorism. Their return to Indonesia raises difficult questions for the authorities.

The six students were detained in September while attending the Abubakar Islamic University in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi.

One of them is Rusman Gunawan, the younger brother of notorious terrorist Hambali, whom President George Bush once described as "one of the world's most lethal terrorists."

Indonesia's foreign ministry spokesman, Marty Natalegawa, says Pakistan had evidence that the men were not merely students. "We were informed by the Pakistani authorities that they have concluded their own investigation," he said, "and they had come to some kind of impression of their involvement in terrorist activities."

He said no date had been set for the return of the six to Indonesia. Mr. Natalegawa said police have not yet decided whether the students should be arrested when they arrived home.

Indonesia has enacted a strong anti-terrorism law, but it is not clear if it covers crimes that were not committed on Indonesian soil.

The legal system was tested this week when a Jakarta appeals court overturned the treason conviction of the suspected leader of the regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah.

However, Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir will remain in prison to serve a three-year conviction for forgery and immigration violations, which the court let stand.

Prosecutors said Tuesday that they will appeal to a higher court to have the treason conviction re-instated, and Bashir's lawyers say they will also appeal to have the forgery and immigration convictions quashed.