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Indonesia Asks Foreign Critics to Respect Light Sentence for Militant Muslim Cleric

  • Nancy-Amelia Collins

Indonesia is asking foreign critics to respect its judicial system and the 30 month jail term handed down Thursday to a militant Muslim cleric found guilty of complicity in the 2002 Bali bombings.

Indonesia told foreign critics Friday to respect a court decision to sentence militant Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir to 30 months in jail for conspiracy in the 2002 Bali bombings - which killed 202 mostly foreign tourists.

The term fell short of the eight years demanded by the prosecution, which failed to prove Bashir's link to the 2003 Jakarta Marriott hotel bombing and other charges of terrorism.

Presidential Spokesman Andi Mallerangeng says the independence of Indonesia's court system needs to be respected.

"We think the system is working. Abu Bakar Bashir is found guilty and the sentence has been stated," he said.

Indonesia has prosecuted and jailed more than 30 people for the Bali bombings - including death sentences for the key leaders.

But Australia - which lost the most citizens in the Bali attack - complained Thursday that the Bashir sentence is too light. As did the United States, which believes Bashir is the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, J.I. - the Southeast Asia terrorist group behind the Bali bombings and other attacks.

"We do note that Indonesia has prosecuted and convicted more than 100 terrorists since the Bali bombings," U.S. State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said. "Nonetheless, I have to say we are disappointed with the results of this trial. We believe these results are not commensurate with Bashir's culpability."

But Indonesian Presidential Spokesman Andi Mallerangeng defends his country's efforts in the Bashir case.

"Of course always in a court system there's always people disappointed about the result. Abu Bakar Bashir is disappointed because he was found guilty," he said. "And some people were disappointed because the sentence is not as high as they expected. But that's the system. We are in a democratic system right now."

The 66-year-old cleric was first arrested just after the 2002 Bali bombings, but prosecutors failed to prove his link to J.I. He was convicted on immigration violations and served 18 months.

He was re-arrested in April based on new evidence - which lead to his criminal conviction Thursday.