Attempts by Indonesian prosecutors to link Abu Bakar Bashir to terror attacks suffered a new setback yesterday when a convicted Bali bomber denied the militant Islamic cleric had any role in the attack.
Ali Imron, who is serving a life sentence for his part in the October 2002 bombings that killed 202 people including 88 Australians, told Bashir's trial that he had never received a direct order or blessing from Bashir to carry out the nightclub bombings.
He also said that the 66-year-old had never provided any financial support for the attack, which was blamed on the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah group.
Bashir is on trial for inciting followers to stage the Bali bombings and a deadly attack on a Jakarta hotel. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
But several convicted terrorists brought to court as prosecution witnesses have denied knowledge that Bashir was involved in Jemaah Islamiyah.
The latest witness statement will come as a particular blow to prosecutors since Imron, who expressed remorse over the Bali bombings, has previously shown willingness to cooperate with police. Only Mohammad Nasir Abbas, a Malaysian former Jemaah Islamiyah regional commander, identified Bashir as the group's leader.
Bashir, who was cleared in 2003 of leading Jemaah Islamiyah, was released last April shortly after Indonesia's parliamentary polls. He was immediately re-arrested by police, who said they had new evidence of terror links.
Prosecutors say Bashir, as Jemaah Islamiyah chief, visited a rebel training camp in April 2000 and relayed a "ruling from Osama bin Laden which permitted attacks and killings of Americans and their allies."
The trial was adjourned till next Thursday.