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Bashir Gets October Date for Terror Trial - 2004-10-18

The trial of an alleged leader of the Southeast Asian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah is set to start next week. Abu Bakar Bashir is to be tried for involvement in a series of deadly attacks on Western targets in Indonesia.

The trial of Abu Bakar Bashir is to start on October 28 in South Jakarta District Court. The most serious charges involve two attacks on Western targets: the October 2002 nightclub bombing on the resort island of Bali that killed 202 people and last year's car bombing of the American-run J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, in which 12 people died.

The Muslim cleric has made little secret of his hatred for what he sees as the West's anti-Islamic bias, but he has always denied involvement in terrorism.

"He extremely disagree[s] and explicitly express[es] his disagreements against the Western policy towards the Middle East and towards Islam in general and he believes the war on terrorism is really the war on Islam," said Wirawan Adnan, a member of Bashir's defense team.

Bashir will be tried under regular criminal laws for allegedly giving his approval for the Bali bombing. Prosecutors had wanted to try him under a special anti-terror law in that case, but that law was passed after the bombing and cannot be used retroactively. He will be tried under the anti-terror law for what the indictment describes as "ordering or motivating" the people who carried out the Marriott bombing.

He was originally arrested shortly after the Bali bombing, but has only been tried and convicted on relatively minor immigration charges.

He could face the death penalty if convicted in the bombings. Indonesia will swear in a new president this week. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is a former security minister who has put domestic terrorism high on his agenda. Political analysts say the Bashir trial, which is expected to last several months, will be the first test of his commitment to combat terrorism.