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15 Years Sought for Alleged Terrorist Cleric

August 13, 2003|From Associated Press

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Prosecutors sought a 15-year prison sentence for a cleric accused of heading the terrorist group blamed for the Oct. 12 Bali bombings and last week's attack on the Marriott hotel here.

Defendant Abu Bakar Bashir has not been directly charged in either attack but is accused of involvement in a series of deadly church blasts in 2000 that killed 19 people, as well as a failed plot to assassinate President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Prosecutor Hasan Madani said Bashir was the head of Jemaah Islamiah, which has launched terrorist attacks in an attempt to topple Indonesia's secular government so it can be replaced with an Islamic state. Bashir, 64, denies any wrongdoing and claims Jemaah Islamiah does not exist.

The sentencing request, which fell well short of the maximum term of life imprisonment, is likely to be seen as a sign of the government's attempts to crack down on extremists while trying not to alienate mainstream Islamic opinion.

Last week an Indonesian court issued the first conviction in the Bali case, sentencing Amrozi bin H. Nurhasyim to death for the blasts, which killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.

On Aug. 5, days before the conviction, a car bombing at the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta killed 12 people and injured almost 150.

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