Cleric cleared over Bali bombings


Dec 21, 2006

Abu Bakar Ba'asyir was freed from jail in June

Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir has had his conviction for conspiracy in the 2002 Bali bombings overturned by the Supreme Court in Jakarta.

The ruling effectively clears the 68-year-old cleric of involvement in the deadly nightclub attacks.

Ba'asyir was released in June after serving 26 months in jail.

But despite his claims of innocence, some security experts still insist he was a founding member of regional Islamic militant group Jemaah Islamiah.

Conspiracy charges

Ba'asyir was first arrested shortly after the Bali nightclub bombings in October 2002, although he was never accused of actually taking part in the attack.

The two bombs ripped through the Kuta area of Bali, a regular haunt for tourists, destroying a nightclub and killing mainly foreigners.

Ba'asyir was held in custody and faced two separate trials, eventually serving two separate sentences, the first for minor immigration offences, the second for being part of what the court called an "evil conspiracy".

In both cases more serious charges were either dropped or later overturned on appeal.

Now the conspiracy charges have also been dropped, as a result of an appeal filed during Ba'asyir's imprisonment.

"Thank God the Supreme Court has finally revealed the final truth," the cleric's son, Abdurrahmin, told the Associated Press on Thursday.

But some Indonesian and foreign intelligence agencies still believe Ba'asyir was, and perhaps still is, the spiritual leader of radical network Jemaah Islamiah (JI).

As a charismatic preacher and teacher, he is thought to have provided encouragement - and some would argue ideological justification - for violence.

Members of JI are accused of being behind a number of operations in Indonesia, including two suicide attacks in Jakarta and the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings.

But most of these attacks took place while Ba'asyir was in prison, and he has always denied that JI even exists.