Mon, Jul 26, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Australia says Bali bombers will stay jailed despite ruling

RETROACTIVE REVENGE An Indonesian court struck down a law passed after the attack, but other courts have options in reacting to the decision


The 32 militants convicted in Indonesia over the Bali bombings will likely remain in prison, although a new Indonesian court ruling on the laws used to convict the men has thrown some doubt on their verdicts, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said yesterday.

The Oct. 12, 2002, bombings in Bali killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.

Attorneys for the 32 militants convicted in the blasts say they expect many will appeal following a ruling on Friday by the Indonesian Constitutional Court.

The men were charged under an anti-terror law that was passed after the bombings along with an additional measure allowing prosecutors to apply that law retroactively. The court ruled that the second measure was unconstitutional, but the panel did not have the authority to overturn any of the convictions.

Downer said that because the Constitutional Court is a new institution, it remains unclear how its rulings would effect the Bali High Court, where the bombers would appeal their convictions.

"I am confident that they will stay in jail and that their sentences will be seen through," Downer told a television network. "Nevertheless, we do have to face up to the fact that there is some legal ambiguity here."

He added, "We very much hope that the current convictions and sentences will stand and the indications are that that is likely, but we can't be 100 percent certain at this stage."

Retrials for the militants would be traumatic for families of the victims, Downer said.

"The Indonesian officials who we've been talking to share our absolute determination that the sentences that have already been handed down be carried through," Downer said.

"So we will continue to work very energetically with the Indonesians to make sure the sentences are not overturned and these people aren't released into the community."

Prime Minister John Howard said Saturday his government would push to ensure that the Bali bombers are punished.

In a 5-4 majority decision on Friday, judges on the Constitutional Court ruled unconstitutional a procedural law allowing prosecutors to apply anti-terror charges to crimes committed before the anti-terror law was enacted.

The court was ruling in a case lodged by Masykur Abdul Kadir, who was sentenced last year to 15 years in prison for helping the Bali bombers by providing transportation and accommodation.

Indonesia's justice minister, Yusril Ihza Mahendra, told reporters on Saturday that the Bali bombers couldn't use the court's decision to overturn their convictions. Lawyers may nevertheless seek to use the ruling as the basis for an appeal.

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