Fri, 22 Aug 2003

Ba'asyir emotionally denies involvement in terrorist acts

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Alleged leader of regional terrorist network Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) Abu Bakar Ba'asyir emotionally denied on Thursday any knowledge of the terror group he has been accused of leading, saying the "terrorist state of America" has stage-managed his treason trial.

Ba'asyir, in his fiery legal defense, warned judges that they were bound for hell if they convicted him and told prosecutors to repent for aiding "the infidel enemies of Islam."

"Judges who pass a wrong decision because of their ignorance will go to hell," he told the Central Jakarta District Court which was trying him for treason charges.

He told the prosecutors: "Do you know that because of your actions the infidel enemies of Islam are cheering while Moslems grieve?"

The 65-year old cleric, with tears welling in his eyes, said "hypocrite" states such as United States, Australia and Singapore had targeted him because he had wanted to uphold sharia (Islamic law) in Indonesia.

"The hypocrites and the secular, if they are entrusted with government power, their programs are to destroy Islam, arrest people who are fighting for Islamic law, set up stage-managed trials so that they can detain them as long as possible or kill them," he said.

Prosecutors say Ba'asyir heads the Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) regional terrorist group which is believed to have links with the al-Qaeda network. They have asked for a 15-year prison term if he is convicted of trying to topple the Indonesian government.

JI is blamed for a string of deadly bombings in recent years, including the Oct. 12, 2002 Bali blasts that killed 202 people and Aug. 5 JW Marriot Hotel bombing that claimed at least 12 lives.

He is also accused of approving the bombing of churches that killed 19 people in several cities on Christmas Eve 2000 and of ordering a plot, which was never carried out, to assassinate Megawati Soekarnoputri before she became president.

Ba'syir is not accused in the Bali or Marriott hotel blasts, which he blames on a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency plot to discredit Muslims.

He denied a role in any bombings or in a plot against Megawati, saying he knows nothing about "what is called as JI."

"The police have listened to the U.S., Singapore and Australia rather than the voice of Muslims," he said, describing his trial as a useless exercise.

"My hunch is there is intervention from outside -- the enemies of Islam, the government of the terrorist state of America.

"The government of this country (Indonesia) is afraid of (U.S.) intervention and has become the extension of the terrorist government of America," he said.

"By Allah, I have never been appointed amir (leader) of what is called JI," Ba'asyir added.

Later in the trial, Ba'asyir's lawyers asked judges to order prosecutors to bring Hambali to court as a witness. The suspected top al-Qaeda and JI operative is in U.S. custody at a secret location after being arrested in Thailand last week.

"We request that Hambali be presented as a witness because bombing operations that have been linked to Hambali, have also been associated with the alleged blessing of Abu Bakar Ba'asyir," said lawyer Adnan Buyung Nasution.

Buyung said Ba'asyir's case was related to the political interests of the U.S. and Singapore. "It is a shame that our country is dancing to the drumbeat of other countries."

Another lawyer Mohammad Assegaf denied that his client was a terrorist. "Such a label should be given to the U.S. and Israel."

A third defense lawyer, Mahendradatta, said prosecutors actually had failed to prove whether or not JI exists and failed to prove any action by Ba'asyir leading to treason.

The trial was adjourned until Monday to hear the court's verdict.