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Regional Leaders Express Disappointment Over Indonesian Cleric's Sentence - 2003-09-03


The four-year sentence given Indonesian Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir for treason has disappointed some regional leaders. Regional leaders were reserved in their reaction to the sentence given 65-year-old Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir. A Jakarta court sentenced him to four years in prison for involvement in treasonous activities and immigration violations.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys both plan to appeal.

Prosecutors had asked the judges for a 15-year sentence on a more serious treason charge, accusing Bashir of being the spiritual leader of the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah.

Bashir's supporters were elated when the judge ruled there was not enough evidence to support that charge.

Jemaah Islamiyah is suspected of carrying out a number of terror attacks, including last year's Bali bombing, a string of church bombings three years ago, and the recent bombing of the Jakarta Marriott hotel.

Officials from the United States, Australia, and Singapore have said they think Bashir is a Jemaah Islamiyah leader.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said that while he was pleased to hear Bashir will be imprisoned, he is disappointed the sentence was not longer.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer echoed that reaction in comments to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "We are surprised that the sentence was as short as it is, four years," he said. "But at the end of the day this is a matter for the court, and the court has made its decision, but that will be subject to an appeal."

Many of the 202 people killed in last October's Bali bombing were Australian. The attack sharply increased international pressure on Indonesia to prosecute suspected terror groups.

Bashir's chief defense attorney, Adnan Buyung Nasution, says the sentence is a response to that pressure.

"This is a save-facing formula for the government, because he was charged already in accordance with the pressure from the foreign countries," said Mr. Nasution.

Indonesia's foreign minister said the sentence proves the country is serious about fighting terrorism.

Indonesia is trying several of the 30 suspects in the Bali bombing. One suspect has been sentenced to death.

Prosecutors requested a 20-year prison sentence, not death, for suspect Ali Imron because they say he has shown remorse for his role in the attacks.