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Accused Terrorist Bashir Will Not Receive Second Prison Reduction

Indonesian authorities will not reduce the prison sentence of militant Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir to mark the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan - and his lawyer told VOA that Australia is to blame for the decision.

Abu Bakar Bashir, the alleged spiritual leader of the regional terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah, is in jail for complicity in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.

The 66-year-old cleric already had four and a half months taken off his original 30-month sentence earlier this year.

Indonesia traditionally reduces prison sentences during major holidays for inmates who exhibit good conduct, and it was widely expected that Bashir would benefit from this as the Ramadan holy month comes to a close.

But one of Bashir's lawyers, Wirawan Adnan, told VOA Thursday that his client would not be receiving another reduction. He says Bashir will not protest the decision.

"Abu Bakar says, I should just accept it and it's not worth it to make a big deal of this decision," said Mr. Wirawan. "It's only going to jeopardize my relationship with the head of the prison here, so just don't make a fuss."

The decision is likely to please Australia, which lost 88 of its citizens in the 2002 bombing, and another four on October 1st, when suicide bombers again struck Bali and killed another 20 people.

Australian officials have repeatedly stated they do not want Bashir to have any more time taken off his sentence. He is currently expected to be released from jail in early June.

Mr. Wirawan says he thinks Bashir should have had his sentence reduced again, and accuses Australia of interfering in Indonesia's judicial process.

"It is clear that our government is accommodating the wish of the Australian government, which clearly indicates intervention to our judicial system," he said.

Jemaah Islamiyah, the terrorist group of which Bashir is alleged to be the spiritual head, has also been blamed for two terrorist attacks in Jakarta: the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in 2003, which killed 12 people, and the 2004 bombing outside the Australian Embassy, which killed another 10.