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Cambodian Court Sentences Terrorist Hambali to Life in Prison

A Cambodian court has convicted in absentia one of Southeast Asia's most notorious suspected terrorists, Hambali, to life in prison for plotting a attack in the country. Five other men also were convicted in the trial.

Hambali is considered to be the mastermind of the 2002 bombing in Bali that killed more than 200 people. Hambali, also known as Riduan Isamuddin, was captured in Thailand last year and is in U.S. custody.

The Indonesian is suspected of being a leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, an Islamic militant group linked to the al-Qaida terror network.

He spent several months in a Phnom Penh guesthouse in 2002. Cambodian prosecutors say he used the country as a base to plan terrorist activities.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Ya Sakhon convicted Hambali and two other J.I. members, identified only as a Malysian named Ibrahim and an Egyptian known as Rousha Yasser, in absentia. He sentenced them to life in prison for plotting to plant bombs at the U.S. and British embassies in Cambodia.

Cambodian Sman Ismael and Thai nationals Abdul Azi Haji Chiming and Muhammad Yalaludin Mading were in court to hear their convictions and sentences of life imprisonment.

Rohan Gunaratna is an expert on terrorism and J.I. with the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore. He says Hambali's conviction of will help fight terrorism.

"The fact that the sentence has been passed, the very fact that he was sentenced to life imprisonment is important because it will have a big deterrent effect on future members of these groups who participate in this kind of violence,” he said.

The judge acquitted Egyptian Esam Mohamid Khidr Ali, declaring that he had insufficient evidence to hold him. Mr. Ali served as the vice director of an Islamic school in Cambodia.

Cambodian police have accused the suspects of using the school as a front for a military training center. Police arrested Mr. Ali, the Cambodian and the two Thais a year and a half ago. They have been jailed since, although the Cambodian court has offered little evidence to hold the men or prove their guilt.

Following the hearing, the lawyer for two of the convicted men promised to file an appeal.

The U.S. Embassy spokeswoman in Phnom Penh, Heide Bronke, said the embassy welcomed the court's verdict and expressed appreciation for the Cambodian government's contribution to the fight against international terrorism.