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Indonesia Reduces Sentences for Muslim Cleric, Bali Bombers

Militant Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir and 17 of those involved in the 2002 terrorist bombings in Bali have had their prison sentences reduced to mark Indonesia's Independence Day. The decision angered some of those affected by the bombings.

Indonesia cut four-and-a-half months from the 30-month prison sentence that Abu Bakar Bashir received for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people, including many foreign tourists.

Reduced prison terms are commonly given to well behaved prisoners each year to mark Indonesia's Independence Day. Those on death row or serving life sentences are not eligible.

Bashir's sentence reduction angered some in Australia, which lost 88 citizens in the bombings on the Indonesian resort island.

Eric De Haart is a member of a Sydney rugby club who was outside one of the Bali nightclubs when a bomb exploded, killing six of his teammates and dozens of others. He says Indonesia's decision is frustrating for the victims.

''It's very disappointing for me personally and it's almost gut-wrenching for the parents of the guys that died," he said. "It's almost as though the Indonesians have considered their kids aren't worth anything."

On Monday, Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said his country would protest a reduction in Bashir's sentence - which Australia said was already too lenient.

Bashir was convicted for involvement in the criminal conspiracy that led to the 2002 Bali bombings, but was cleared of the more serious charges of planning terrorist attacks.

A lawyer for Bashir, Wirawan Adnan, said his team had not asked the government for clemency or a reduced sentence, because to do so would admit Bashir's guilt.

"He can take it. That's their decision to give a time off but were not asking for it," he said.

Seventeen others involved in the Bali bombings who were sentenced to 16 years in prison also had their prison sentences reduced, by three months.

Bashir has been accused by some governments, including Australia and the United States, of being the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiya, a terrorist group in southeast Asia with links to al-Qaida.

J.I. is believed responsible for a series of terrorist attacks including the 2002 Bali bombings, 2003 bombing of the Marriott hotel in Jakarta that claimed 12 lives, and the 2004 suicide bombing outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta that killed 11 people.

Indonesian officials also announced plans on Independence Day to release hundreds of imprisoned rebels from the Free Aceh Movement. A peace agreement signed with the rebels Monday calls for the release of all political prisoners from the conflict in Indonesia's northern province of Aceh.