Sat, Dec 23, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Acquittal an act of defiance against US: Bashir


Firebrand Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir praised a court ruling acquitting him of terrorism charges as an act of defiance against the US and said yesterday he was considering suing for damages.

Bashir, who spent 2.5 years in prison for conspiracy in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, has long claimed he was arrested on trumped up charges to appease Washington and its allies in the so-called war on terror.

The Supreme Court's decision on Thursday to quash his conviction in the twin nightclub blasts angered victims and the government in Australia, where the top police official said he "had no doubt" Bashir was involved.

But the 69-year-old cleric, who was released from prison in June, was all smiles when speaking to journalists at his hardline Islamic boarding school in the central Javanese town of Solo.

Many countries and courts "are too afraid to stand up to the United States, but the Supreme Court decision is honest and brave," he said, adding that he was considering filing a lawsuit to rehabilitate his name and seek damages.

If awarded compensation, he will likely donate it to Islamic causes, his lawyer said.

The US and Australia have both accused Bashir of being one of the key leaders of the al-Qaeda-linked militant network Jemaah Islamiyah, which has been blamed for the Bali attack and a series of other deadly bombings. They have never presented any evidence to support their claim.

Eighty-eight of the victims in the 2002 bombings were Australian and relatives and friends expressed outrage yesterday at the decision.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said he was upset for the families but powerless to help.

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