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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 August, 2003, 18:38 GMT 19:38 UK
Malaysia frees 'key militant'

By Jonathan Kent
BBC correspondent in Kuala Lumpur

A man alleged to be a former leader of the South East Asian Islamic Militant group, Jemaah Islamiah, has been released from prison in Malaysia.

Mohamad Iqbal Abdul Rahman is said to have been replaced by the man known as Hambali who is accused of masterminding the Bali nightclub bombings.

Mohamad Iqbal has been handed over to Malaysia's immigration authorities and is expected to be deported to his native Indonesia.

He was arrested in June 2001 and subsequently identified by Malaysia's police chief as one of three key leaders of the JI group.

Also known as Abu Jabril, he was detained under Malaysia's internal security act, which allows for suspects to be held first for 60 days and then for periods of two years without charge or trial.

Appeal possible

His lawyer told the BBC that Malaysia's deputy prime minister had chosen not to renew his detention for a further two year period, but that he had been handed to the immigration authorities for deportation instead.

Mohamad Iqbal had been granted permanent residence in Malaysia and taught in local religious schools alongside two other leading figures in JI - the cleric, Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, who is currently on trial in Indonesia and Riduan Isamuddin, known as Hambali, recently arrested in Thailand.

Hambali is supposed to have become JI's operations chief after Mohamad Iqbal's arrest and to have been responsible for the group's increasing use of violence.

Mohamad Iqbal's lawyer says that he is entitled to appeal if Malaysia tries to deport him.

The Indonesian authorities are reported to have said that they have not been informed of his possible return.


SEE ALSO:
Jemaah Islamiah still a threat
15 Aug 03  |  Asia-Pacific
The Bali bombers' network of terror
06 Aug 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesia's Muslim militants
08 Aug 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Malaysia and Indonesia boost ties
23 Dec 02  |  Asia-Pacific
Malaysia detains suspected militants
16 Oct 02  |  Asia-Pacific


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