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Bali Bomber Disputes Indonesian Cleric's Role in Terrorist Organization

A man condemned to death for the 2002 Bali bombings has testified that the Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir had no links with the group allegedly behind the bombings. Amrozi Nurhasyim says he was tortured into helping implicate Bashir before Bashir's trial last year.

Amrozi Nurhasyim testified in a southern Java court Wednesday that prosecutors promised him a lighter sentence if he said Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir had ordered the Bali bombings.

The bombings, which killed 202 people, have been blamed on the al-Qaida-linked terrorist organization known as Jemaah Islamiyah, or JI.

Bashir, who is reputed to be the spiritual head of JI, was convicted last year of playing a role in the bombings. He received a 30-month jail sentence last March, which has since been shortened by the court. Amrozi was also convicted in the bombing, and sentenced to death.

Prosecutors at Bashir's trial relied heavily on an alleged confession by Amrozi, and the testimony of another man, named Mubarok, who was also involved in the bombings. Mubarok testified that he and Amrozi had discussed their Bali plans with Bashir before the attack, and the prosecutors said Amrozi had admitted to the same thing.

Testifying Wednesday in Bashir's appeal hearing, Amrozi denied this, and told the court Bashir had no links to terrorism. He said the prosecutors told him that if he implicated Bashir, he would receive a lighter sentence, or even be freed.

Bashir's lawyer, Adnan Wirawan, says he hopes Amrozi's Wednesday testimony will lead to the cleric's conviction and prison term being overturned.

"This is a judicial review. It means if our argument is accepted, it means that Abu Bakar Bashir will be declared innocent by the Supreme Court," he said.

Adnan says no matter what the outcome, Bashir will be released in June, when his shortened sentence ends. But he said his client wants to leave prison as an innocent man.

JI has been blamed for a string of bombings in the Philippines and Indonesia, including a second bombing on Bali last year. Australia, which lost 88 citizens in the first Bali bombing, and the United States have criticized Bashir's jail term as too lenient.