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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 March, 2004, 11:52 GMT
Jailed Indonesian cleric defiant
Abu Bakar Ba'asyir
Ba'asyir criticised the US and Australia at a news conference in jail
Jailed cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir has vowed to continue fighting for Islamic law for Indonesia once he leaves jail.

Giving a news conference a day after his sentence was cut in half, Ba'asyir also criticised the US and Australia for "warring" with Muslims.

Ba'asyir could be released within weeks after the courts threw out his subversion conviction.

The US still believes he led militant group Jemaah Islamiah (JI), and was involved in planning terrorist acts.

They absolutely cannot accept that Islamic figures whom they have slandered are being released
Abu Bakar Ba'asyir

At the news conference in Jakarta's Salemba jail, Ba'asyir described the US as an enemy of Islam.

"They absolutely cannot accept that Islamic figures whom they have slandered are being released," he said.

Ba'asyir, who appeared relaxed and joked with reporters, said that the US despised his championing of Islamic Sharia Law "because America is afraid of Islam."

Earlie, a State Department spokesman in Washington had expressed "extreme disappointment" over Ba'asyir's expected release.

The subject was also raised by the US Homeland Security Secretary, Tom Ridge, who is visiting Indonesia.

"Hopefully in due time, at least from our country's point of view and appreciation of the intense and deep involvement of Ba'asyir in both the execution and planning of terrorist activities... he will be brought to justice," Mr Ridge said.

Australia has also objected to his proposed early release. Most of the 202 people who died in the 2002 Bali bombings - blamed on Jemaah Islamiah - were Australian.

At the news conference Ba'asyir said that Australia also intended to "wage war against Islam."

"They have the mentality of colonialists. All white people are like that," he said.


Ba'asyir was jailed for four years in September 2003 for subversion and immigration offences.

But an appeal court threw out his subversion conviction in December and reduced his sentence.

The Supreme Court has now decided that the reduction was not enough, given the relatively minor convictions which remain in place.

Ba'asyir has said he expects to be released in early May, because his detention officially started on 2 November.

At his original trial Ba'asyir was cleared of charges that he was leader of JI.

His acquittal on that charge was criticised by some foreign governments, who believe that Ba'asyir is or was the spiritual head of JI.

As well as the 2002 Bali attacks, JI is also suspected of being behind the bombing of the Marriott hotel in Jakarta, which killed 12 people in August.

Profile: Abu Bakar Ba'asyir
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