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Last Updated: Friday, 4 March, 2005, 05:28 GMT
Jakarta backs Bali cleric verdict
Abu Bakar Ba'asyir - 3/3/05
Indonesia said its sentence against Ba'asyir should be respected
Indonesia has defended a 30-month jail term for a radical cleric linked to the Bali bombings, after the US and Australia said it was too lenient.

Abu Bakar Ba'asyir was found guilty on Thursday of conspiracy over the 2002 attacks, in which 202 people died.

But he was cleared of more serious anti-terrorism charges relating to an attack on Jakarta's Marriott hotel.

The US and Australia, which lost scores of citizens in Bali, said Ba'asyir's crime merited a longer jail sentence.

An Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman hit back at the criticism, saying the independence of the judiciary should be respected.

Marty Natelagawa also defended his country's record in prosecuting the "war on terror", citing the 30-odd militants sentenced so far for the Bali bombings.

He said it was understandable that some countries, especially Australia, wanted to see justice done but they should "maintain a sense of perspective of how other terrorist cases elsewhere in the world are handled".

"I know of many far more high-profile cases where the perpetrators are still at large, or if they have been caught remain incarcerated without any proper trial," Mr Natelagawa said.

He also said Washington's refusal to hand over a top Indonesian militant suspect, Hambali, may have prevented prosecutors from making a stronger case against Ba'asyir.

"It's a nagging question, what difference it could have made," he said.


At the end of the court case, a statement read out by the five judges said Ba'asyir had not been directly involved in carrying out the Bali blasts, but had given his approval for the attacks.

Australia, which lost 88 citizens in the Bali attacks, was swift to comment on the relatively lenient sentence.

Ba'asyir supporters - 3/3/05
The cleric's supporters say he is being persecuted to please the US

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told the BBC: "I have instructed our embassy in Jakarta to raise the whole question of the short sentence with the Indonesian authorities and to say that from our perspective, we would like to see a longer sentence, particularly bearing in mind that so many Australians were killed in Bali."

A spokesman for the US embassy in Jakarta, Max Kwak, agreed with the assessment.

"We respect the independence and judgement of the Indonesian courts," he said. "But given the gravity of the charges on which he was convicted, we are disappointed at the length of the sentence."

In contrast, many of Ba'asyir's supporters were outraged that he had been convicted at all.

It will increase his martyr status, but yet it doesn't cause him much discomfort
Greg Barton, JI expert

Many in the courtroom raised their fists, shouting "Allahu Akbar" ("God is greatest") when the sentence was handed out.

"Smash America and its lackeys," one supporter said.

Case undermined

The BBC's Rachel Harvey in Jakarta says it was always going to be a difficult and complex case for the prosecution to prove.

Their case was undermined when witnesses gave contradictory testimony, and a former US state department interpreter gave evidence that appeared to back up the defence's claims that the trial was a result of US pressure.

The cleric was convicted over the Bali bombings under ordinary criminal legislation, rather than the harsher anti-terror laws, which were only brought in after the 2002 attacks.

Police rearrested him in April 2004 after he completed a jail sentence for immigration violations, citing new evidence linking him to JI.

The US has alleged JI has ties to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

Watch the scenes inside the courtroom

Verdict leaves no-one satisfied
03 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Profile: Abu Bakar Ba'asyir
03 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Abu Bakar Ba'asyir's legal saga
03 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Jemaah Islamiah still a threat
13 Sep 04 |  Asia-Pacific
The Bali bombing plot
02 Oct 03 |  Asia-Pacific
The Bali bombing suspects
24 Aug 04 |  Asia-Pacific


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