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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 August, 2003, 07:11 GMT 08:11 UK
Jail demand for Indonesian cleric
Abu Bakar Ba'asyir
Abu Bakar Ba'asyir denies Jemaah Islamiah exists
Prosecutors in Indonesia have called for a 15-year jail sentence for the Islamic cleric believed to be the spiritual leader of the militant group Jemaah Islamiah (JI).

Abu Bakar Ba'asyir has been charged with treason related to his alleged attempts to overthrow the government, as well as for allegedly approving church bombings that killed 19 people in the year 2000.

Prosecutors could have demanded a life sentence for Mr Ba'asyir, whose trial is continuing.

He denies the charges and says JI - which several governments believe carried out last year's Bali bomb attacks - does not exist.

In an interview before the hearing, Mr Ba'asyir said the American CIA was behind the Bali bombing and a similar attack on a Jakarta hotel last week.

"It was to discredit Islam," he told el-Shinta radio station.


"The defendant has been proven to have carried out acts of treason... We, the state prosecutors... request the judges find Abu Bakar Ba'asyir guilty and sentence him to 15 years in jail," prosecutor Hasan Madani urged the court.

The cleric smiled as the request was made. His supporters, who had defied police orders and shouted Allahu Akhbar (God is Great) before the hearing, listened in silence.

I support Osama Bin Laden's struggle because his is the true struggle to uphold Islam, not terror - the terrorists are America and Israel
Abu Bakar Ba'asyir
October 2002

About 150 police guarded the building.

Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, 64, has not been charged with the Bali or the Marriott hotel bombings.

Instead, prosecutors accuse him of trying to weaken the Indonesian Government in a bid to turn the country - the world's most populous Muslim nation - into a hardline Islamic state.

Their demand, which fell well short of the maximum penalty of life imprisonment, may be seen as proof the Indonesian Government wants to crack down on extremists but not alienate mainstream Islamic opinion, correspondents say.

Al-Qaeda links

In a message from his prison cell last week, Abu Bakar Ba'asyir said Muslims should strive to impose Islamic law without fear of being labelled terrorists.

"Do not be afraid of being labelled as trying to overthrow [the government] or as terrorists when you are carrying out Islamic Sharia [law]," he said in the message, read out by one of his deputies.

The Indonesian authorities have linked JI to Osama Bin Laden's group al-Qaeda, saying that JI members had trained with the group in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Amrozi has been sentenced to death for the Bali bombing
At least 33 suspected JI members are either on trial, or awaiting trial, for the Bali attacks which killed 202 people, many of them tourists.

On Monday, lawyers for the Bali bomber Amrozi, who was sentenced to death for his role in the blasts last week, lodged an appeal against his conviction.

The lawyers said they did not dispute Amrozi was involved in the attack, but would argue he did not deserve the death penalty since he had not planned it.

JI was formed in the mid-1980s by two Indonesian clerics.

Its principal goal is the establishment of a unified South East Asian Islamic state stretching from southern Thailand, through the Malay Peninsula, including Singapore and across the Indonesian archipelago, and into the southern Philippines.

The BBC's Rachel Harvey
"Abu Bakar Ba'asyir is charged with trying to overthrow the government of Indonesia"

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