Terror mastermind walks
Indonesia is pandering to Islamic radicalism by releasing terror mastermind Abu Bakar Bashir, an unrepentant preacher of violent jihad who applauds September 11 and has been linked to the Bali bombings. (Of course, he blames the Bali bombings on the CIA. I guess Mossad was otherwise occupied that day.) Note also that, despite his holding tiny-minority-of-extremists views, he has wide popular appeal in Indonesia. From The Australian, with thanks to Nicolei:
THE terrorist-linked Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir will almost certainly be released from prison next month, following an Indonesian Supreme Court decision to halve his sentence.
Widely believed to have led Jemaah Islamiah until his arrest in October 2002 following the Bali bombings, Bashir has consistently maintained his innocence.
As the faithful beat a path to his cell in Jakarta’s Salemba prison, Bashir denied all knowledge of the JI Bali bombings that killed 202 people, yet refused to condemn the bombers.
Speaking to The Australian from prison yesterday, Bashir, while saying he respected the Supreme Court, was dismissive of its decision to reduce his sentence for immigration and document falsification crimes from three years to 18 months.
“I still think the verdict is cruel and unfair, because the matter of faking the documents is not based on facts,” he said.
Revered by thousands, the Islamic radical could now become an anti-US icon in Indonesia, and perhaps be used by conservative Islamic parties in the coming elections.
JI expert Sydney Jones, director of the International Crisis Group’s Jakarta bureau, says Bashir has star power in Indonesia.
It is understood the judges determining Bashir’s case last year were concerned for their safety.
Bashir was sentenced last September to four years in prison on treason and immigration charges, widely thought to be a very light sentence. In December, an appeals court quashed the treason conviction and reduced his sentence to three years. In the decision announced yesterday, the Supreme Court reduced it again to 18 months, nearly all of which Bashir has served.
In an interview shown on SBS last night, Bashir said the Central Intelligence Agency was behind the Bali bombings and described the US and Australia as terrorists.
Speaking from his prison cell, he said terrorists were those who did not show their true intentions.
He said Australia and the US were intent on undermining Indonesia’s Muslim population and the CIA had been involved in the Bali bombings to undermine Indonesia.
“Only the dishonest and stupid people deny that the CIA used Bali for their own purposes,” he said.
“If we’re talking about terrorists, it’s America. People who don’t show their real interests. It’s just America’s tricks. America and Australia.”
Bashir said Americans, Europeans and Jews were all intent on undermining Islam for their own purposes.
He said the September 11 terror attacks on the US were part of a holy war against America and it was wrong to call those responsible for the attacks terrorists.
“I say to Muslims that to call them terrorists is a big sin,” he said.
“People who call them terrorists are sinners. They’re Mujaheddin defending Islam.”
Bali survivor Peter Hughes said last night he feared Bashir, once released from jail, would seize the opportunity to resume his dangerous and influential role among Muslim radicals.
“I don’t want to see him out,” he said. “He has a lot of influence.
“Some of the radicals in Indonesia think he’s a hero.”
Mr Hughes was in the Sari Club along with former AFL footballer Jason McCartney when the bombs went off. He was critically injured.
He has returned to Bali several times and was one of three Australians to testify at the trial of Bali bomber Amrozi last June.
Mr Hughes said the reduction in the Bashir sentence had confirmed his poor opinion of the Indonesian justice system.
“It’s amazing what happens in Indonesia with these people,” he said. “I think the Indonesian Government needs to have a very good look at this bloke.
“They should be really worried about his behaviour.”
Fellow Perth Bali survivor Tracey Ball also expressed disappointment at the court ruling.
“That angers me, it really does,” she said.
“There’s no justice. If he has been found guilty of plotting against the Government, surely the Government should be spending more time and effort trying to keep him behind bars for as long as possible.”
Other family members of Bali bombing victims expressed resignation at the early release of Bashir, saying that whatever happened to him it wouldn’t bring back their loved ones.
Cameron Airlie, who lost his mother Gayle, said it didn’t matter to him what happened to JI’s spiritual leader.
“It doesn’t bother me at all,” he said. “Eighteen months is better than nothing.”
Ann Cronin lost her son Paul in the Sari Club explosion. He was one of three players from the Forbes football club who died.
She said the reduction of Bashir’s sentence was “no great shock”.
“Somehow I expected this would happen,” she said. “It won’t bring my son back.”