Indonesian cleric's trial adjourned

Abu Bakar Bashir faces fresh charges including helping establish terror training camp and funding terror organisations.

    This will be the third trial for Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir [AFP]

    The trial of Indonesia's most well-known Islamic cleric opened on Thursday, but was swiftly adjourned on a technicality.

    Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of the outlawed southeast Asian militant network Jemaah Islamiah, entered court amid high security and increased religious tensions in Indonesia.

    Bashir said nothing to supporters as he entered the courtroom for his third terrorism trial since the 2002 Bali bombings, for which he was jailed and released on appeal.

    Thursday's trial was adjourned until next week after Bashir's defence team complained that he had not been given the minimum three-days notice to appear in court.

    Bashir faces fresh charges - including helping establish a terror training camp and funding terror organisations - offences that carry the death penalty in Indonesia.

    Bashir's trial has refocused attention on Indonesia's fight against terrorism.

    Religious intolerance

    Indonesia has won praise for largely defeating terror groups, but analysts and rights groups say a recent increase in acts of religious intolerance shows extremism still has a hold on the world's most populous Muslim nation.

    Despite no significant terror attacks in Indonesia for nearly two years, security in the capital is pervasive, with checkpoints placed at the entrance of all major shopping malls, hotels, embassies and government buildings.

    The 72-year-old Bashir, is officially the caretaker of an Islamic boarding school on Java island but has long been considered the spiritual leader of the shadowy Jemmah Islamiah movement, which seeks to establish a Muslim caliphate across Southeast Asia.

    He was found not guilty of terror offences in two previous trials that attempted to link him to the Bali bombings. This time, he faces charges related to mobilising others to commit acts of terror.

    "Abu Bakar Bashir planned and mobilised other people to break Indonesian law by providing firearms, munitions, explosive materials and other dangerous materials to be used to carry out an act of terrorism," according to a copy of the 93-page indictment against Bashir seen by the AFP news agency.

    Bashir is also the "Amir" of above-ground Jema'ah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) Islamic group, which draws support from thousands of often unemployed youths who attend public rallies and sermons by firebrand preachers.

    Their ranks have provided recruits for even more radical organisations with links to Jemaah Islamiah and al-Qaeda.

    Threat remains

    Analysts say that if Bashir is found guilty he would more likely face a long jail term than execution.

    But they say the threat remains of other terror groups forming across the archipelago of over 17,000 islands which are home to around 240 million people, most of them moderate Muslims.

    Indonesia - often praised for its pluralism and tolerance - meanwhile experienced some of its worst religious violence in years when Muslim youth ran a riot in the name of defending Islam this week.

    This included the gruesome lynching of three members of a minority Islamic sect by an enraged mob on Sunday, as well as an anti-Christian rampage through the streets of Temanggung, in Java.

    Indonesia's president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said on Wednesday that violent, hard-line
    groups should be disbanded, and from Washington, US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley voiced "deep concern'' over both incidents. 

    SOURCE: Agencies


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