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Sunday, 3 November, 2002, 06:35 GMT
Cleric 'aimed for Australian influence'
The scene of the Bali bombing in Indonesia
Australia has declared Jemaah Islamiah a terrorist group
Indonesian radical Islamic leader, Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, visited Australia 11 times to try to spread the influence of the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) militant group, the Australian Government has said.

Abu Bakar Ba'asyir
Ba'asyir denies any connection to the Jemaah Islamiah
Attorney General Daryl Williams said raids last week by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) on the homes of Muslims suspected of having terrorist links were aimed at establishing the extent of that influence.

The raids - which have caused public outrage in some quarters - were part of Australia's crackdown on terror and they focused primarily on the JI, which is suspected of involvement in last month's deadly bomb attack in Bali and of links to al-Qaeda.

The statement came as police in Indonesia continued to question Mr Ba'asyir over alleged links to a series of explosions at Christian churches and a plot to kill President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Mr Ba'asyir, 64, is alleged by the governments of Singapore and Malaysia to be the spiritual leader of JI, but he has not been linked to the Bali bombing.

He denies leadership of the organisation and any wrongdoing.

Ongoing operation

Following the Bali bombing, Australia declared JI a terrorist organisation - allowing the government to use tough anti-terror legislation against suspected members.


We've had 40 raids by ASIO since 11 September and not one has resulted in an arrest or a charge in relation to terrorist activity

Stephen Hopper, lawyer of JI suspects

Mr Williams declined to give any details about the ASIO raids in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

He said that the agency was still analysing information about Mr Ba'asyir's visits.

Mr Williams claimed that Mr Ba'asyir, who last travelled to Australia in 1998, was often accompanied by a man said to be the then JI leader Abdullah Sungkar.

"We don't know why they came here but ASIO assesses that the purpose was to establish a Jemaah Islamiah influence in Australia," he told ABC television.

Mr Williams said that the operation was ongoing, declining to speculate whether security agents planned new raids.

Muslims outraged

The armed raids on the homes of several Muslims have proved controversial.

Stephen Hopper, a lawyer for one man whose house was stormed, said his client had no militant connections, adding that he have fallen under suspicion because he had attended lectures by Mr Ba'asyir.

He described the security raids as a vulgar example of racial profiling of innocent people who were made scapegoats.

"We've had 40 raids by ASIO since 11 September and not one has resulted in an arrest or a charge in relation to terrorist activity," Mr Hooper said.

"One has to now start questioning the efficiency of ASIO in the light of having all these raids in Australia when our favourite resort was blown up under their noses."

The raids have been also criticised by Muslim community leaders, who warned that relations between Australia's Muslims and the European mainstream could be irreparably damaged.


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