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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 June 2006, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
Abu Bakar Ba'asyir's legal saga
Abu Bakar Ba'asyir
Prosecutors were desperate to prove a link between the cleric and JI
Abu Bakar Ba'asyir's March 2005 conviction for conspiracy over the 2002 Bali bombings appeared to mark the end one of Indonesia's highest profile court cases.

The 68-year-old Muslim cleric was originally arrested a week after the Bali bombings in October 2002.

Prosecutors alleged that Ba'asyir was the spiritual head of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), a regional militant group which has been held responsible for the Bali attacks and several others in the region.

While he was not originally charged in connection with the Bali attacks, prosecutors did charge him with treason, accusing him of plotting to overthrow the Indonesian government in order to turn the country into part of an Islamic state.

But at his trial in September 2003, judges decided that while Ba'asyir probably knew about and supported the actions of JI, there was not enough evidence to prove he was the group's leader.

The case against him was largely based on witness testimonies, and while several people stated that he definitely was the head of the shadowy militant group, they had to admit that they only knew this from hearsay rather than personal experience.

The ageing cleric was therefore acquitted of treason, but jailed for minor immigration offences. He was also found guilty of subversion, although that verdict was overruled by an appeal court three months later.

New evidence

Aftermath of the Bali bomb, October 2002
Ba'asyir could not be charged over Bali under new anti-terror laws

The lightness of his sentence was criticised by many foreign governments, who continued to believe that Ba'asyir was heavily involved with JI.

Indonesian police and investigators continued to compile evidence against him, and when he was released from prison in April 2004 he was immediately re-arrested.

For his second trial, he was charged with the following offences:

  • Planning and inciting acts of terrorism
  • Using his position to influence/persuade others
  • Conspiring to commit acts of terrorism
  • Withholding information about acts of terrorism

All these offences came under stringent new anti-terrorism legislation passed in the wake of the Bali attacks.

They related to the Marriott bombing as well as the establishment of a training camp on the Philippine island of Mindanao and the discovery of a cache of explosives in July this year.

Ba'asyir could not have been charged for the Bali attacks under this legislation, because an Indonesian court ruled in 2004 that the law could not be used retroactively.

So the prosecution instead charged him with Bali under the country's criminal code.

They accused him of being part of the conspiracy behind the attacks, and said he gave permission to key Bali bomber Amrozi to go ahead with the plan.

During the trial, the prosecution's case did not go well. Witnesses failed to link him with JI, and the charge of using his position to influence people had to be dropped for lack of evidence.

In the end, the five judges said Ba'asyir was not guilty in connection with the JW Marriott attack; that he had not been directly involved in the Bali plot; but that he had been part of its "evil conspiracy".

"The defendant has been proven legally and convincingly to have committed the crime of evil conspiracy that caused fire that left other people dead," chief judge Soedarto said, reading the verdict.

Ba'asyir was jailed for 30 months, though the sentence was later reduced by four months and 15 days.


SEE ALSO
Profile: Abu Bakar Ba'asyir
27 Oct 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Jemaah Islamiah still a threat
13 Sep 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Cleric faces charges over Bali
16 Oct 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Cleric charged with hotel bombing
15 Oct 04 |  Asia-Pacific

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