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Indonesian Cleric Charged With Bali Bombing - 2004-10-16

Indonesian Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir has been charged with involvement in the 2002 terrorist bombings on the resort island of Bali, which killed 202 people.

State prosecutors said Saturday they have charged Abu Bakar Bashir under Indonesia's normal criminal code for having a role in the Bali bombing in October 2002.

On Friday, he was charged under the tougher anti-terrorism laws with involvement in the J.W. Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta last year. The anti-terror law, which came into effect after the Bali attack, carries the death sentence.

Mr. Bashir is accused of being the spiritual leader of the regional terrorist network, Jemaah Islamiyah, or J.I., which has been blamed for a string of terrorist attacks across the country.

The 66-year-old cleric denies having a role in J.I. and any involvement in terrorist activities.

He was arrested not long after the Bali attack, but prosecutors were unable to successfully charge him for a role in the bombing. Instead, he was convicted of an immigration offense. He served his sentence for that and was rearrested in April when he got out.

A lawyer for Mr. Bashir, Achman Wirawan Adnan, says he believes his client is being used as a scapegoat and Indonesia is being pressured by the United States and Australia to jail him.

"We almost get to the point where we give up, we just don't want to defend him anymore because he's going to be there anyway, no matter what, so what's the use of trying to defend [him]?" he said. "I mean our opponent is the whole world, how could we win anything?"

Mr. Bashir's trial is expected to begin within the next two weeks.