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Bashir Trial to Continue, Says Court Panel


An Indonesian court has ruled that the trial of an alleged Muslim militant will continue. Cleric Abu Bakar Bashir is the alleged leader of a regional group that seeks to overthrow the Indonesian government.

The five-judge panel hearing the case against Abu Bakar Bashir on Tuesday rejected the objections raised by his lawyers, and ruled that the trial will go on. Mr. Bashir's lawyers had tried to have the indictment against the 64-year-old cleric thrown out for several reasons. They said the charges against him were based on the word of one man - a suspected al-Qaida operative now in U.S. custody.

They also said that because Mr. Bashir is charged with crimes that took place in Central Java, that is where he should stand trial - not the Indonesian capital Jakarta. Some crimes mentioned in the indictment occurred while Mr. Bashir was living in Malaysia, which his attorneys argued made the indictment legally flawed.

Mr. Bashir's trial opened last month, with prosecutors charging that he is the spiritual chief of Jemaah Islamiyah - a regional militant group. Washington and several Southeast Asian governments say that JI, as the group is known, is linked to the al-Qaida terror network.

Mr. Bashir was arrested last year, shortly after a massive bomb killed more than two-hundred people on the resort island of Bali. Police say JI is responsible for the bombing. But Mr. Bashir has not been charged in connection with the Bali blast. He is accused of involvement in a series of bombings throughout Indonesia. He also is thought to have been involved in thwarted plots to attack Western interests in Singapore and to assassinate Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Mr. Bashir has consistently denied any connection to terrorism or JI. He faces possible life in prison if convicted.