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Indonesia's Supreme Court Clears Abu Bakar Bashir of Conspiracy in 2002 Bali Bombs

Indonesia's Supreme Court has overturned the guilty verdict against the militant Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir for conspiracy in the 2002 terrorist bombings on the island of Bali that claimed over 200 lives. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins in Jakarta has more.

The court on Thursday said it had accepted appeal against his conviction.

The 68-year-old cleric was released from prison in June after serving 25 months of a 30-month sentence for conspiracy in the bombings, which killed 202 people, many of them foreign tourists.

Adnan Wirawan, a lawyer for Bashir, says he is elated with the court's verdict.

"We feel that this is something that it should have been. This is something that my client deserves all along," said Wirawan.

Bashir is accused of being the spiritual leader of the regional terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiyah. J.I. has been blamed for a number of terrorist attacks in Indonesia and the Philippines over the last few years, including the 2002 Bali bombings.

No evidence has been produced linking Bashir to the preparation or execution of terrorist attacks in Indonesia and most analysts agree the Muslim cleric has little operational role in J.I.

But Western governments, including the United States and Australia, criticized the light sentence handed to Bashir after his conviction.

His lawyer claims those same Western governments put pressure on Indonesia to find Bashir guilty in the first place and only the Supreme Court was able to act independently.

"With this verdict it proves that all this time our judicial system under the influence of foreign governments," he added.

After his release from jail in June, Bashir returned to the West Java Islamic boarding school he founded, where, he says, he spends his time fighting for the introduction of Sharia, or Islamic law, in Indonesia.

Several of Jemaah Islamiyah's leaders convicted in the Bali bombings attended Bashir's boarding school.

Bashir has always denied any involvement in J.I.

Indonesia is a secular, democratic nation with the world's largest Muslim population.