Sat, 15 May 2004

Ba'asyir moves to new, cool cell

Evi Mariani, Jakarta

Cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, 65, was transferred from National Police Headquarters to his air-conditioned cell at Jakarta Police Headquarters on Friday. Soon after arriving at his new residence in a Nissan Terrano car he waved and smiled broadly.

City police detective chief Sr. Comr. Mathius Salempang and other detectives greeted Ba'aysir before gesturing him inside the comfortable detention center, ignoring the presence of reporters.

Ba'asyir's lawyer Mahendradatta arrived carrying some of the cleric's belongings, including a small suitcase and a towel hanger, into the detention center.

For the time being, Ba'asyir is the only occupant of the newly renovated detention center, which has five large air-conditioned bedrooms with new spring beds -- including one main bedroom with an en suite -- a dining room and a living room. The total cost of the renovation has not been made available.

Minutes before Ba'asyir arrived, Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Makbul Padmanagara said the detention center would accommodate senior citizens detained at the headquarters. He denied the building would be used exclusively for terrorist suspects.

"It's for elderly detainees, because we assume they will need special attention. For example, most of them need to go to the toilet frequently," he said.

Both the National Police and the city police insisted that they were not giving the cleric special treatment.

Ba'asyir is in police detention over his alleged involvement in international terrorism.

The cleric had been released on April 30 after serving an 18- month sentence at Salemba Penitentiary for immigration violations and document fraud. Minutes later, he was arrested again for alleged links to terrorism.

Ba'asyir's rearrest was protested by many of his followers, including dozens of members of Islamic youth organizations in Medan, North Sumatra, on Friday. They demanded National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar release the cleric soon, Antara reported.