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Indonesian Prosecutors File Terrorism Charges Against Militant Islamic Cleric - 2004-10-15

Indonesian prosecutors have filed terrorism charges against the militant Muslim cleric, Abu Bakar Bashir.

Prosecutors filed the 65-page dossier containing the charges at a Jakarta district court on Friday. Details of the charges have not been made available.

However, Achman Wirawan Adnan, a lawyer for Abu Bakar Bashir, says his client is accused of masterminding the J.W. Marriott Hotel suicide bombing in Jakarta last year that killed 12 people.

Mr. Achman says it is also likely the 65-year-old cleric will be charged with heading the regional terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiyah.

Mr. Achman says he does not expect his client to receive a fair trial.

"We believe that the prosecutor does not have a case," said Mr. Achman. "But this is a political matter. He's going to be in jail no matter what. At the time when the Marriott bombing took place, he has a strong alibi, because he [was] detained."

The Muslim cleric will be tried under Indonesia's anti-terror law, which carries the death penalty.

Jemaah Islamiyah, JI, has links with the al-Qaida terror network. The group has been blamed for a string of terrorist attacks across Indonesia, including the bombings in Bali two years ago that killed 202 people, and last month's bombing outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta that claimed nine lives.

A court last year failed to conclude that Abu Bakar Bashir was the head of JI, but he remained in jail for immigration offenses, and was re-arrested last April when he finished that sentence.

He was initially named as a suspect in the Bali bombings, but because of a technicality, he cannot be charged in that case.

Landry Subianto, an analyst with the Center for Security and International Studies in Jakarta, says the prosecution must present strong evidence against Abu Bakar Bashir, in order to convince Indonesia's predominately Muslim population that he is involved in terrorism.

"Without very convincing evidence about the direct or indirect involvement of Abu Bakar Bashir, I think that would also create another credibility problem, especially in front of the Islamic audience," he said.

Mr. Bashir's lawyers say they expect the trial to start within two weeks. Abu Bakar Bashir denies all charges against him.