Wed, 13 Aug 2003

Prosecution seeks 15 years in jail for Ba'asyir

A'an Suryana and Blontank Poer, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Surakarta

Prosecutors demanded on Tuesday 15 years in jail for terror suspect Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, who has been charged with treason and immigration violations, and accused of leading Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), which has been blamed for deadly bombings in both Bali and Jakarta.

He was not directly charged with involvement in terrorism, but many believe he was behind a series of bloody church blasts on Christmas Eve 2000 that killing 19 people.

Ba'syir is also charged with plotting to assassinate President Megawati Soekarnoputri when she was still vice president in 1999.

A treason charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years.

During the three-hour session on Tuesday, prosecutor Hasan Madani said that Ba'asyir, chairman of the extremist Indonesian Mujahidin Council (MMI), had been proven beyond all reasonable doubt to have committed the crimes alleged by the prosecution.

"The defendant has violated Articles 107, 266 and 263 of the Criminal Code (on treason), and Law No. 9/1992 on immigration," Madani told the court, which was packed with dozens of Ba'asyir's followers and journalists.

Madani said Ba'asyir was guilty of falsifying documents stating he was a resident of the Central Java town of Ngruki, where his MMI was based.

The defendant was also guilty of making a false affidavit about his whereabouts from 1985 to 1999, the prosecutor added.

Lastly, he was guilty of violating Immigration Law No. 9/1999 by failing to carry out his obligations as a foreign citizen in Indonesia.

Ba'asyir went to Malaysia in 1985 after serving three years in jail for subversion. His Indonesian citizenship was annulled after he failed to notify the Indonesian Embassy in Malaysia of his presence there -- a mandatory requirement if an Indonesian citizen wishes to retain his or her citizenship. He came home to Indonesia in 1998 after the fall of president Soeharto.

The trial, held at the Meteorological and Geophysics Agency building in Central Jakarta, was heavily guarded by police personnel. It ended peacefully.

Ba'syir smiled when the prosecutor's demand was read out, saying his trial was the result of American pressure.

When arriving for Tuesday's hearing, he told journalists that the terror attacks that had occurred in Indonesia were the work of the CIA.

Ba'asyir's lawyer Mahendradatta blasted the sentence request as "baseless and sensational".

Presiding judge Muhammad Saleh adjourned the trial until Thursday to hear closing defense pleas from Ba'asyir's lawyers.

In the Central Java city of Surakarta, hard-line MMI leaders slammed the request for a 15-year jail term for the elderly Muslim cleric.

Closing its three-day congress on Tuesday, the MMI also retained Ba'asyir as its top leader for another five years, and Irfan S. Awwas as the organization's executive chairman.

"The congress has decided to appoint Ustadz (teacher) Abu Bakar Ba'syir as the leader of the MMI for the 2003-2008 period," said a statement issued after the congress.

It urged the government to acquit the detained leader of all charges.

The 64-year-old cleric was detained last October amid intense domestic and international pressure after the Bali blasts on Oct. 12, 2002. He has denied any links to terrorism and even tried to claim JI does not exist.

He also heads the Al Mukmin Islamic boarding school in Ngruki, Surakarta, which has produced a number of terror suspects.