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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 May, 2004, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
Radical cleric 'stopped bomb plot'
Abu Bakar Ba'asyir
Ba'asyir was acquitted of being JI's spiritual head
A bomb attack on Israel's Australian embassy was aborted on the orders of Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, a court in Perth has heard.

Jack Roche, who is on trial for plotting the attack, said in evidence played to the court that Ba'asyir had told him to stop what he was doing.

Mr Roche said Ba'asyir intervened to stop in-fighting between members of the militant group Jemaah Islamiah (JI).

Ba'asyir is now in Indonesian custody as prosecutors try to link him to JI.

In videotaped interviews with police, conducted soon after his arrest in November 2002, Mr Roche repeatedly named Ba'asyir as the head of JI, a group the cleric denies even exists.

JACK ROCHE
John Roche
50-year-old Muslim convert born in England as Paul Holland
Admits being a former JI member
Denies charges of attempted terrorism
Insists Abu Bakar Ba'asyir headed militant group JI
In testimony heard in court on Wednesday, Mr Roche said there was a disagreement between local JI leaders in Australia and Hambali, the head of JI in Malaysia, who was overseeing the planned attack on the Israeli embassy.

He said that Abdulrahman Ayub and his twin brother Abdulrahim, who are believed to have led JI in Australia, were so annoyed at Hambali's interference that they rang Ba'asyir to complain.

Mr Roche then said he received a call from Ba'asyir cancelling the whole operation.

"I got a telephone call from Abu Bakar Ba'asyir telling me to just stop whatever I was doing, to stop it," Mr Roche said.

Indonesian police have long been trying to find a conclusive link between Abu Bakar Ba'asyir and JI, a group which has been blamed for a string of bombings, including the Bali attacks.

In a court case last year, the cleric was acquitted of being the group's spiritual leader, but sentenced to 18-months in jail for immigration offences.

After his jail term came to an end in April 2004, he was immediately re-arrested because police said they had new evidence placing him at the head of JI.

Ba'asyir 'makes JI decisions'

Jack Roche was arrested during raids in Australia in the aftermath of the Bali bombings in late 2002.

He told police he joined the Australian branch of JI in 1996.

At that time, he said, the spiritual leader of the group was a man called Abdullah Sungkar, but after he died, Ba'asyir took over.

"He's the one who makes decisions regarding the structure of JI in South East Asia," Mr Roche said of Ba'asyir.

During his time with the group, Mr Roche said he went to Afghanistan for explosives training, and to meet Osama Bin Laden and other senior al-Qaeda figures, who told him to recruit Australian Muslims to build up a terrorist cell.

But he admitted he had trouble recruiting people.

"The general conclusion was that nobody in Australia was interested at all... I basically gave up after the first attempt," he said on tape.

Mr Roche said he left JI following disagreements with the Ayub brothers in mid-2000, around the time prosecutors allege he was plotting to bomb the Israeli embassy.

"We didn't see eye to eye on certain issues and I didn't see that there was any benefit for me in continuing my association with [the twins]," Mr Roche claimed.

He said he became disillusioned, and went to the US consulate in Sydney to tell them what he knew.

But the embassy directed him to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), where "nobody seemed particularly interested in what was going on," Mr Roche said.

Jack Roche was born in the UK, but has been living in Perth in Western Australia for several years. He converted to Islam more than a decade ago.

His lawyer has insisted he is innocent, but he faces a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison if convicted of attempted terrorism.

The trial continues.


SEE ALSO:
Profile: Abu Bakar Ba'asyir
29 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesian cleric 'led JI'
24 May 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Jemaah Islamiah still a threat
15 Aug 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesian cleric faces Bali charge
30 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Court told of Sydney games plot
19 May 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Australian 'trained by al-Qaeda'
17 May 04  |  Asia-Pacific


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