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Indonesia: Bashir's Lawyers Sue Police - 2003-03-14

Lawyers for a detained Indonesian cleric suspected of engaging in terrorism have filed a lawsuit against the national police to seek his release. Abu Bakar Bashir's legal team says police are holding him illegally.

Lawyers representing detained Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir filed the complaint against Indonesia's National police chief.

Mr. Bashir was arrested last October because authorities suspect he was involved in an assassination plot against President Megawati Sukarnoputri. They also suspect he was involved in a wave of bombings across Indonesia on Christmas Eve two years ago.

Mohammed Assegaf, one of Mr. Bashir's lawyers, says after the case was presented to the prosecutors, there was no significant evidence to support the charges that Mr. Bashir was involved in the plots to assassinate the president or the Christmas bombings.

Mr. Assegaf says that is why the police changed the charge to the attempted overthrow of the government, and that is why they have sued the police.

Last month, police officials said Mr. Bashir would be charged with treason, but that has not happened.

Mr. Bashir is believed to be the spiritual chief of Jemaah Islamiyah, a regional militant group suspected of links to the al-Qaida network.

Police say JI members carried out the deadly bomb attack that killed roughly 200 people last October on the island of Bali. Authorities have arrested more than 30 people in connection with the plot, but Mr. Bashir has not been directly implicated.

Mr. Bashir has consistently maintained his innocence.

This is not the first time Mr. Bashir has filed a lawsuit against those who have accused him of wrongdoing. In the past, he tried unsuccessfully to sue the government of Singapore for libel because it accused him of involvement in terrorism.