Thu, 28 Aug 2003

Court to deliver Ba'asyir verdict next Tuesday

M. Taufiqurrahman and Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Denpasar

The treason trial of cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir is coming to a close, with the Central Jakarta District Court setting a Sept. 2 date for the judges to deliver their verdict.

Ba'asyir made his last-ditch effort on Wednesday to evade the 15-year jail sentence demanded by prosecutors, for plotting the assassination of then vice president Megawati Soekarnoputri and violating immigration law.

"I am not guilty. This trial is about my struggle for the imposition of sharia. It is fueled by the enemy of God: the U.S. government and its allies," he told the court.

The trial began on April 23, but the cleric has been detained since October last year, following his arrest while hospitalized in the Central Java town of Surakarta.

Ba'asyir, 65, has been accused of heading the Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), a shadowy organization, believed to have links with the al- Qaeda terror network.

JI is blamed for a string of deadly bombings in recent years, including the Bali attack last October, which killed 202 people, and this month's JW Marriot hotel blast in Jakarta, in which 12 people died.

He is also accused of approving the bombing of churches in 2000, that killed in total 19 people.

Ba'asyir said on Wednesday he had only engaged in a peaceful campaign for the imposition of sharia in Indonesia.

His defense lawyers have repeatedly criticized the work of the prosecutors, saying the dossiers and indictment against their client were unfounded and based on speculation only. They also questioned the validity of testimonies delivered by key witnesses via teleconference.

Head of the Jakarta Prosecutors' Office Salman Maryadi refuted on Wednesday the defense lawyers' accusation, saying the indictment had been based on testimonies from witnesses presented during the lengthy trial.

"It is not true that the indictment is based only on testimonies from witnesses through teleconference," he told reporters here.

Separately, in the trial of Bali bombing suspect Ali Imron, a witness told the Denpasar District Court that the quantity of explosives used in the Oct. 12, 2002 attack was less than that claimed by another prime suspect, Amrozi.

Sarjio, the witness, said two days prior to the blasts he and another suspect, Abdul Ghoni, blended 18 kilograms of aluminum powder and three kilograms of sulfur.

Previously Amrozi and Ali Imron said they used 600 kilograms and 1,025 kilograms of explosive materials respectively.

Sarjio said, that he was barely aware that the substances were meant for the assemblage of a bomb. "I thought the explosives were for producing firecrackers," he said.

But, he added that he had learnt about assembling a bomb during his stay in Pakistan.

He said that he had left for Bali only after receiving orders from Imam Samudra, allegedly the field operator of the bomb attacks.

"I spent my first week here doing nothing. And I started working on the second week, when the first two packages arrived," he said.

The trial was adjourned until Wednesday to hear the prosecutors' sentence demand.