Abu Bakar Bashir: Not out of the woods yet
It looked as if terror mastermind Abu Bakar Bashir was going to get off scot-free, but maybe not. From Reuters:
Indonesian police will bring suspected Jemaah Islamiah spiritual leader Abu Bakar Bashir in for questioning next week as officials continue to look at mounting a fresh terrorism trial against him.
The fiery Islamic cleric is due to be released from his Jakarta jail on April 30 after an appeal to Indonesia’s highest court last month halved his three year sentence for forgery and immigration offences.
The decision was strongly criticised by both Australia and the United States, both of which urged Jakarta to consider whether a fresh trial may be launched using tough anti-terrorism laws introduced after the deadly Bali bombings of 2002.
Police attempted to question Bashir at Salemba prison on Thursday night and asked for him to be shifted to police headquarters in central Jakarta.
But the cleric refused and will now be moved on Wednesday morning.
“It’s been a long time, just an accumulation of evidence,” police anti-terrorism director Brigadier-General Pranowo said.
A senior Indonesian counter-terrorism official last week said there was enough evidence to re-try Bashir – in addition to the transcripts obtained from the US government after the interrogation of captured JI operations chief Hambali.
The evidence included a letter to Bashir addressing him as the group’s emir leader.
Next week’s interrogation by police was also likely to cover claims by a confessed JI member that he also took orders from Bashir.
Mohamed Nasir Abbas, a Malaysian arrested in Indonesia last year, said he headed a JI operations cell, or Mantiqi, that covered the islands of Borneo, Mindanao and parts of Sulawesi, and that he reported to Bashir.
“When I was leader of the Mantiqi 3, I was under the emir of Jemaah Islamiah, Utaz Abu Bakar Bashir,” Nasir said. Utaz is an honorific for Islamic teacher.
Nasir did not directly link Bashir to any bomb attacks.
But he said both Bashir and Hambali distributed a religious edict from al-Qaeda terror mastermind Osama bin Laden to members of the South-East Asian extremist group that urged Muslims to kill Americans, including civilians.
Earlier terror charges against Bashir have not held up amid blunders by prosecutors in Jakarta.
Australia’s Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has previously described Bashir as “a loathsome creature” and warned that his early release would give JI an unwelcome boost.
The counter-terrorism official who spoke to AAP last week said there was enough evidence for Bashir to have a new trial.
But he said the political will was lacking in Indonesia to re-arrest the cleric amid the current national and presidential election process and fears it could alienate Islamic voters.
Bashir, 65, was arrested in his hospital bed shortly after the Bali bombings.
While he has described Osama bin Laden as a true Islamic warrior, he denies any links to terrorism and says he was framed because he campaigns for Islamic sharia law in Indonesia.