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Indonesian Muslim Cleric Bashir's Re-Arrest Sparks Riots - 2004-04-30

Islamic protesters have rioted outside the Indonesian prison where the suspected head of the terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiyah, was taken into police custody early Friday morning. Abu Bakar Bashir was re-arrested just after being released from prison on immigration violations.

Rioting Islamic protesters threw rocks at police water cannon trucks outside the south Jakarta prison early Friday morning.

The group was demonstrating against the re-arrest of Abu Bakar Bashir, a Muslim cleric and suspected leader of the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah.

Bashir was due to be released from prison Friday after serving an 18-month sentence for immigration violations. But he was immediately re-arrest as he left prison and taken to Jakarta police headquarters to be interrogated about his alleged terrorist connections.

At his trial, the judge said there was not enough evidence to convict Bashir of being the spiritual leader of the regional Islamic terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiyah. But investigators into the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing say other convicted terrorists have given them new information and reason to again arrest and hold Bashir.

Dozens of protesters and police were injured in the hour-long running battle in front of Bashir's prison Friday. Tension had been running high for days, and Bashir's supporters had been threatening violence if he was not released.

Police laid the blame for the violence at the door of the protesters, but Irfan Suryahardy, Bashir's deputy at the Council of Indonesian Islamic Warriors, said the police overreacted.

He calls the morning's work "bloody Friday" and pledges that the protesters would regroup and continue their demonstrations against Bashir's detention.

Bashir has made little secret of his hatred of the West, but has denied direct involvement in any of the bombings.

But terrorism experts point out that at least 17 convicted or suspected Jemaah Islamiyah bombers were once pupils at the Islamic boarding school he founded and ran in central Indonesia, and say Bashir must have known what was happening.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim country, but Bashir and his fellow travelers have only minimal support in this overwhelmingly moderate nation.