Wed, May 14, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Court throws out dismissal plea

MOVING FORWARDA Muslim cleric suspected of masterminding a string of church bombings around Indonesia will definitely face trial for treason

AP , JAKARTA

Indonesian Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir tries to control his supporters during his trial in a Jakarta court yesterday. An Indonesian court ruled that treason hearings against the alleged leader of a regional militant Muslim network should proceed, dismissing defense demands the case be thrown out.

PHOTO: REUTERS

A court yesterday rejected a plea to dismiss a treason trial against the alleged leader of an al-Qaeda-linked terror group in Southeast Asia who is accused of plotting to destabilize Indonesia through deadly bombings.

The ruling by a five-judge panel in Jakarta means the trial of Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir will continue. He is accused of authorizing a string of church bombings in 2000 aimed at destabilizing the country's secular government. Nineteen people were killed.

"The objections submitted by the defense lawyers ... could not be accepted," presiding judge Muhammad Saleh said before the panel adjourned proceedings until next Tuesday.

Bashir, who has denied any wrongdoing, admonished supporters gathered in the court room to keep quiet after they booed the ruling, but he also had words for the judges.

"I just want to remind the panel to have good intentions in this trial so that God will reward you as promised by the Koran," Bashir said.

Earlier, Bashir entered the courtroom surrounded by about 200 supporters chanting "Allahu akbar," or "God is great." Hundreds of policemen guarded the courthouse in central Jakarta.

Dressed in a traditional white robe, Bashir told the panel that he was healthy enough to follow the court hearing. The judges began the proceedings by reading out the charges, which include treason and involvement in terrorism with the intent of overthrowing the government.

Prosecutors say Bashir is the leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, an al-Qaeda-linked group that has been blamed for a series of attacks including the Oct. 12 bombings last year of two nightclubs on Bali, killing 202 people.

Bashir is not on trial for that attack and prosecutors say there is insufficient evidence to charge him for it.

Defense attorneys requesting a dismissal have complained that the indictment fails to spell out the crimes that Bashir is charged with and that the court lacks the authority to hear the case. In an earlier court appearance, Bashir told the court that only God could judge him.

Last week, prosecutors told the court they have enough evidence to convict Bashir, including testimony from Jemaah Islamiyah members detained in Singapore and Malaysia and from a key suspect in the Bali bombings.

Bashir has said his trial is the result of American pressure. Western intelligence services say Jemaah Islamiyah has ties to Osama bin Laden's terror network.

In the 25-page indictment, prosecutors accuse Bashir of giving "his blessing" to plans for terror strikes against Western interests in Southeast Asia, including an alleged plot to bomb US interests in Singapore.

The indictment also says Bashir's group drew up a death list of Christian priests in Indonesia and plotted the assassination of President Megawati Sukarnoputri, who has tried to end fighting between Muslims and Christians in Indonesia's eastern Maluku islands.

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