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Terrorists Testify in Indonesia Militant Cleric Trial

In Indonesia, a number of convicted terrorists have testified that cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, who is accused of being involved in at least two bomb attacks on Western targets, visited a militant training camp and had contact with Osama bin Laden. One of the prosecution's key witnesses told the court that Bashir did not know about one of the attacks he is accused of encouraging.

Abu Bakar Bashir is on trial for his life in Jakarta. He is accused of being the leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, and inspiring the group's members who carried out both the Bali tourist nightclub bombing two years ago and last year's attack on the Marriott Hotel. More than two hundred people died in the attacks.

The court heard Thursday that Bashir visited a militant training camp in the southern Philippines, where he gave a graduation speech.

Another witness said the former headmaster of an Islamic boarding school received a personal invitation to stay with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, an invitation Bashir did not take up.

But the prosecution case received a blow when one of the men convicted of involvement in the August 2003 bombing of the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta said that Bashir did not know of the plan.

The witness, known simply as Ismail, says that only five men knew of the plot, and none of them were Bashir.

Bashir denies all the charges. He says he never visited the camp in the Philippines, and had been in jail for 10 months before the Marriott bombing.

Experts on regional militant groups say there is compelling circumstantial evidence that Bashir knows more about terrorism than he admits. They note that many of the men so far convicted of the bombings were graduates of the Islamic school he founded and ran.

But the experts say that it might be difficult for prosecutors to prove a direct link to the acts themselves.

Although the group he is accused of heading, Jemaah Islamiyah, wants to establish an Islamic superstate across much of Southeast Asia, Indonesia has not banned it, and being a member of the group is not a crime in itself.