Indonesia Prepares for Trial of Accused Terror Instigator

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

Pacific Rim Bureau ( - The Indonesian government is putting on trial a Muslim cleric accused of terrorism and treason, suspected of links to a series of planned and carried-out bombings in the region.

Abu Bakar Bashir, whose trial is due to begin next Wednesday, has himself filed charges in a Jakarta court of arbitrary arrest against Indonesian police chief General Da'i Bachtiar.

The complaint, filed Thursday, demands $210,000 in compensation from the police.

Bashir has denied claims that he is the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), a terrorist network with close links to al-Qaeda, and which has been outlawed in the United States and a number of other countries.

Indonesian police say JI carried out last October's deadly bombings on the resort island of Bali, which killed almost 200 people, mostly Western tourists.

The 64-year-old cleric is not, however, facing charges relating to Bali, but in connection with earlier bombings, including a series carried out against more than a dozen churches in nine cities across Indonesia on Christmas Eve 2000.

Nineteen people were killed and more than 120 were hurt when 24 out of 45 bombs left outside the churches exploded that day, many of them timed to go off during Christmas services.

The dead included a 10-year-old boy and a 2-month-old baby.

The 25-page indictment also accuses Bashir of approving a plot to blow up U.S. and other Western interests in Singapore - a conspiracy aborted when Singapore arrested more than a dozen suspects early last year.

And Bashir is also accused of involvement in a plot to assassinate the then vice-president and current president of Indonesia, Megawati Sukarnoputri, in 2000 because she was regarded as supportive of Christians.

The state says he wanted to topple the government and establish an Islamic state governed by shari'a law.

Other regional governments have said JI's goal was the setting up of an Islamic super state comprising at least Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the southern Philippines.

Bashir's lawyer, Mahendradatta (who like many Indonesians uses just one name) said the allegations against his client were false.

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow