Abu Bakar Bashir, who has praised the Bali nightclub bombings as a jihad, will serve 2 1/2 years for his role in the murder of over 200 people. This is yet another indication of the high degree of sympathy for his cause in that country. From AP, :
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — The alleged leader of a militant Islamic group was sentenced Thursday to 2 1/2 years in prison for conspiracy in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed 202 people but was cleared of more serious charges. The United States and Australia criticized the sentence.
A five-judge panel cleared Abu Bakar Bashir of allegations that as head of the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah group he planned the 2003 suicide bombing of the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta that killed 12 people and that he incited his followers to launch terrorist attacks.
The 66-year-old preacher could be released from prison by October 2006 with time already served in prison taken into account. He has been in jail since April.
Bashir had faced a maximum penalty of death over the Marriott charge, but most analysts had predicted his punishment would be far less – partly due to a weak case by prosecutors. During the five-month trial, only one witness directly testified that Bashir headed Jemaah Islamiyah, the group blamed in both attacks.