Sat, Jul 24, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Bali bombers to appeal after Indonesian ruling

AFP , JAKARTA

A top Indonesian court ruled yesterday an anti-terror law used to convict the Bali bombers violated the Constitution, a decision which could open the way for fresh appeals by jailed extremists.

A senior justice ministry official said the constitutional court's ruling does not overturn the convictions of the al-Qaeda-linked militants behind the nightclub bombings which killed 202 people on the holiday island.

But one of the lawyers who brought the test case, Wirawan Adnan, said it provides new grounds for appeals by convicted Bali bombers who face a firing squad, as well as by lower-level players.

He said lawyers would seek a judicial review of all appeals rejected by the supreme court, including those of Amrozi and Imam Samudra, after the constitutional court ruled that the retroactive anti-terror law is unconstitutional.

"We will also file appeals to all cases which have been decided in the district courts, by using the same argument," Adnan said.

Amrozi and Samudra, along with a man called Mukhlas, are under sentence of death for their key roles in the worst terrorist attack since Sept. 11, 2001 in the US.

The court was considering an appeal by Masykur Abdul Kadir, who was jailed for 15 years for helping the bombers. He claimed a subsidiary law which made the main anti-terror law retroactive -- to cover the Bali attack -- breaches the constitution.

The judges, by a five to four majority, agreed.

"Convictions which have been handed down and which have permanent legal force will still be in force," said Abdul Gani Abdullah, the justice ministry's director general of legislation.

"But unfinished cases can no longer use Law No. 16 [on retroactivity] but must instead use the criminal code."

Abdullah said defense lawyers can seek judicial reviews "but they must have new evidence and a constitutional court ruling cannot be considered as new evidence. A judicial review does not get in the way of the execution of a verdict."

A court spokeswoman said the judges had only struck down the retroactive provision and not the anti-terror law itself.

Numerous other terror suspects, including those charged over the Marriott hotel bombing which killed 12 people in Jakarta last August, are on trial or have been convicted under the legislation.

The government of the world's largest Muslim-populated nation was long accused of shutting its eyes to the extremist threat. But just a week after the Bali blasts of October 2002 which killed mainly Western holidaymakers, it rushed through an anti-terror decree.

The decree, which authorizes death for terrorism and limited detention without trial, was formalized into a law the following year.

Courts in Bali convicted 33 people for the nightclub blasts. Apart from the three sentenced to death, they received sentences ranging from life three years.

Indonesia is also preparing to put Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir on trial again. Police say they have new evidence that he led the Jemaah Islamiyah terror group, which has staged a string of bloody attacks including the Bali blasts.

One of the cleric's lawyers said he should be freed.

"The constitutional court's ruling today shows that he can no longer be put on trial under the anti-terror law, particularly by linking him with the Bali bombing," the lawyer told reporters.

Brigadier General Pranowo, a director of a police anti-terror unit, said the ruling was "clearly very disappointing."

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