Radical Cleric Bashir Could Face Death Penalty

JAKARTA

Prosecutors promised a swift trial of radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir after police charged him on Monday with inciting others to commit terrorist acts, a crime carrying the death penalty.

“We want to try him very quickly,” South Jakarta prosecutors office chief Mohammed Yusuf told reporters after the aged extremist presented himself under tight security to hear the formal charges against him.

Dozens of heavily armed police and two armoured vehicles were on hand as the alleged spiritual leader of Indonesian jihad, or holy war, was transferred from his prison where he has been on remand since August.

Bashir, whose anti-Western tirades and conspiracy theories have made him a figurehead for local extremists, is accused of multiple crimes under anti-terror legislation.

They include providing funds for terrorist activities and encouraging people to carry out acts of terrorism, related to a militant training camp that was discovered in Aceh province earlier this year.

“The harshest allegation is that he incited others to commit crimes of terrorism, which carries the death penalty,” Yusuf said.

The trial is not expected to start for at least two months.

Sporting his usual wispy white beard and Islamic attire, the frail 71-year-old was quoted by local media as saying Islam itself was “being terrorised” by the case against him.

His lawyer said he denied the allegations and would not sign the charge sheet.

“My client rejected the police dossier as presented to him today… there must have been foreign interference in this case,” defence lawyer Lutfie Hakim said.

The “Al-Qaeda in Aceh” group featured some of Southeast Asia’s most-wanted terror suspects and was plotting Mumbai-style attacks on embassies, hotels and political figures in Jakarta, police have said.

Bashir’s arrest came after a series of raids which netted over 100 terror suspects around the country as police dismantled the Aceh-based network.

The bespectacled cleric served almost 26 months for conspiracy over attacks on Bali nightspots in 2002 that killed 202 people, before being cleared and released in 2006.

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