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Bali Bombing Suspects Say Indonesian Cleric Leads Terrorist Organization - 2003-05-28

Suspects in the deadly bombing on Bali have testified that Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir leads their terrorist organization.

Ali Imron was the first of four suspects in the Bali bombing attack to testify in the trial of Abu Bakar Bashir. Ali Imron said that as far as he knows, Mr. Bashir is the leader of the militant group Jemaah Islamiyah.

But Ali Imron told the court he has no proof of Mr. Bashir's role. Ali Imron was arrested in November as a suspect in the bombing that killed about 200 people last October on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Indonesian police said the 64-year-old Mr. Bashir is the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, which wants to form an Islamic state spanning much of Southeast Asia. The police also said the group is responsible for the Bali attack, although Mr. Bashir is not accused of being involved in the bombing.

Washington said the group is linked to the al-Qaida terrorist network.

Another suspect in the Bali bombing testified that he knows Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaida. But Ali Ghufron, the brother of Ali Imron, told the court that Osama bin Laden was not involved in his activities.

Mr. Bashir is on trial for plotting a series of bombing attacks on churches in Indonesia on Christmas Eve 2000, and failed plots to attack Western interests in Southeast Asia and to kill the Indonesian president. Ali Imron also testified that a man named Riduan Isamuddin, known as Hambali, ordered the church bombings in 2000. Riduan Isamuddin is believed to be a top al-Qaida operative in Southeast Asia. Security at the Jakarta courthouse was high, police standing shoulder-to-shoulder around the building throughout the day's proceedings.

The attack on Bali sent shockwaves of fear through the region that Indonesia had become be a haven for Islamic radicals. More than 30 suspects have been arrested and charged in connection to the Bali bombing, most of them have ties to Jemaah Islamiyah.