"There was pressure to reopen the case against Bashir," lawyer Munarman told a Jakarta court on the first day of a hearing on a wrongful arrest lawsuit filed by Bashir's attorneys. Munarman goes by a single name.

Bashir's lawyers have cited meetings in April between US Secretary for Homeland Security Tom Ridge and senior Indonesian officials as evidence of foreign involvement in the case against national police chief General Da'i Bachtiar.

The US embassy has said there is "extensive evidence of Bashir's leadership role and personal involvement in terrorist activities," but denied it has intervened in the case.

Police lawyer Captain Rudi Hariyanto said that the arrest was in line with tough anti-terror laws passed after the 2002 Bali island bombings, which killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.

Bashir, 66, was rearrested on the day he finished serving an 18-month term for minor immigration offences.

New evidence questioned

Police say they have new evidence to prove Bashir is the leader of the Jemaah Islamiya group, and that he approved a series of terror attacks that included the Bali bombings.

"The defendant  enthusiastically conducted the legal process against the plaintiff after the arrival of the US homeland security secretary in Indonesia and after the extraordinary activities of the US ambassador to Indonesia in intervening and pressuring several officials and public figures"

Ahmad Michdan,
lawyer

However, Ahmad Michdan, another legal representative for Bashir, denied the police's claims, saying that since his rearrest, they were repeating questions they had previously asked him.

"The defendant enthusiastically conducted the legal process against the plaintiff after the arrival of the US homeland security secretary in Indonesia and after the extraordinary activities of the US ambassador to Indonesia in intervening and pressuring several officials and public figures," Michdan said.

Ridge visited Indonesia in March. He expressed disappointment at a supreme court decision to halve Bashir's jail sentence and said the cleric was deeply involved in terrorism.

Ridge, without elaborating, said at the time he hoped Bashir "will be brought to justice in a different way."

The judge hearing the case is expected to announce a verdict next week. If he rules Bashir's arrest unlawful, he will be freed while he awaits trial on the terror-related charges.