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Treason Suspect Warns Trial Judges

Abu Bakar Bashir, a militant Muslim, says God will punish them if their verdict is unfair.

May 01, 2003|Richard C. Paddock | Times Staff Writer

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Accused terrorist leader Abu Bakar Bashir warned the judges at his treason trial Wednesday that God will punish them if they deliver an unfair verdict in his case.

The militant Muslim, opening his own defense, told the five-judge panel that he answers only to God and called on the court to ensure that his trial was free from political pressure. "I testify that there is no other absolute ruler, there is no protector, there is no judge except Allah," he said. "There is no source of law except Allah."

Bashir denies allegations that he is the "emir" of Jemaah Islamiah, the Southeast Asia terrorism network believed responsible for dozens of bombings, including the Oct. 12 Bali nightclub attack that killed 202.

Bashir, 64, was arrested after the Bali blast but has not been charged in that case. Prosecutors allege that he approved church bombings on Christmas Eve 2000 that killed 19 people and that he attempted to overthrow the Indonesian government and replace it with a strict Islamic state.

Authorities say Jemaah Islamiah is linked to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network. Bashir denies that Jemaah Islamiah exists but has praised Bin Laden as a true Islamic warrior.

In his brief address to the court, Bashir lectured the judges on their responsibility and explained the prophet Muhammad's views on the judiciary.

"There are three kinds of judges," Bashir said. "A knowledgeable judge who decides based on his knowledge is bound to go to heaven. A knowledgeable judge who decides unfairly is bound to go to hell. A stupid judge who decides a case with his stupidity is bound to go to hell. I hope all the judges here belong to the first group." The allegations against him, Bashir said, "have gone beyond the limits of humanity."

After Bashir spoke, three of his team of 80 lawyers argued that the charges should be dismissed because they are vague and legally flawed.

"The indictment is unclear, has many weaknesses and doesn't describe accurately the alleged criminal actions committed by the defendant," argued Adnan Buyung Nasution, one of his lead attorneys.

Bashir and his lawyers argue that he is on trial because of pressure from the United States to make progress in the fight against terrorism.

"Our client has already been judged by international opinion as the leader of this" terrorism network, Nasution said. "I'm afraid he'll be punished only because of this international pressure."

Bashir's trial began a week ago and will continue intermittently for the next few months. About 200 of Bashir's supporters attended the hearing and demonstrated outside. Police have arrested 32 suspects in the Bali bombing, including several alleged members of Jemaah Islamiah. The first trial is expected to begin next month.

Police are investigating whether a bomb that exploded Sunday at the Jakarta airport was connected to Jemaah Islamiah, but so far police say they have few clues.

The bomb, which was planted outside a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet at the domestic terminal, injured 11 people, including a woman who had to have a leg amputated.

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