Wed, 09 Mar 2005

Ba'asyir alleges conspiracy

Tony Hotland, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Alleging a wicked plot to put cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir behind bars by any means, his lawyers met legislators on Tuesday and demanded a probe into the suspected conspiracy.

The lawyers also filed an appeal with the Jakarta High Court to overturn Ba'asyir's 30-month jail term.

Muslim Attorney Team chief Mahendradatta said the alleged conspiracy between police, prosecutors and judges was blatantly obvious during Ba'asyir's trial proceedings.

"(The prosecutors and judges) deliberately kept Amrozi from being called to the stand, but it was so bizarre because they later based their verdict solely on Amrozi's alleged statement," he told House of Representatives Commission III for law.

Sixty-six-year-old Ba'asyir was sentenced to 30 months last week by the South Jakarta District Court for his part in the 2002 Bali blasts that claimed 202 lives, mostly Westerners.

The judges relied on the sworn testimony of Mubarok, a Bali bombing convict, who cited a conversation between his convicted accomplice Amrozi and Ba'asyir about holding an "event" in Bali, which the court interpreted as proof that the cleric had conspired in staging the terror attack.

"The prosecutors, with help from the police, kept preventing Amrozi from being summoned. They even adjourned the trial whenever Mubarok couldn't make it. They clearly violated Ba'asyir's right to defend himself against Amrozi's statement because he never testified," said Mahendradatta.

He said Amrozi claimed to have never been contacted by the prosecutors to testify and clarify his statement.

Mahendradatta said the verdict must have been handed down merely to prevent the police from losing face again given that most witnesses and evidence presented at the trial favored Ba'asyir.

It was the second court case for Ba'asyir. He was cleared last year of leading the regional Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) terror network blamed for the Bali blasts and other terror attacks in the country over the past few years, but was found guilty of immigration offense.

The lawyers, said Mahendradatta, also suspected foreign involvement in the trial due to the large amount of funds spent on the hearings.

"It was odd that, instead of using a regular courtroom, they had to rent a huge air-conditioned room and bring in dozens of policemen and prepare meals for them," he said, referring to the Ministry of Agriculture's hall as the venue for Ba'asyir's trial.

In response, Commission III chairman Teras Narang promised to immediately arrange hearings with relevant offices to investigate the lawyers' allegations.

Meanwhile, analysts have said that Ba'asyir could win the appeal due to what they believe was a flimsy prosecution.

The sentence has been criticized as too lenient by Australia and the United States, which insist Ba'asyir is JI's spiritual leader. Canberra has urged prosecutors to appeal.





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