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Bomb charges against Bashir dropped JAKARTA - Alleged terror group leader Abu Bakar Bashir was handed over to prosecutors by Indonesian police today in preparation for his trial, but Bashir's lawyer said charges of masterminding a deadly anti-Christian bombing spree have been dropped. Police had earlier accused Bashir of planning the Christmas Eve 2000 bombing attacks on churches and priests, which killed 19 people.
But they had now dropped the charges over a lack of evidence, said Bashir's lawyer Mohammad Assegaf. Assegaf said Bashir will be charged with treason based on an alleged plot to assassinate Megawati Sukarnoputri when she was still vice-president, and with immigration offences.
National police spokesman Edward Aritonang declined comment when asked if the Christmas bombing charges had been dropped from the police evidence file handed over to prosecutors. Indonesian police and foreign governments say Bashir is the leader of the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) regional terror network, which is blamed for the October 12 bombings on Bali island that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.
They have said they expect to charge him over the Bali blasts in the future. National police chief General Da'i Bachtiar said last month that JI was behind the Bali attack and that Bashir had earlier given his blessing to a holy war in Indonesia and Singapore against the United States and its allies.
An official at the Jakarta prosecutors' office, Sutrisman, said Bashir would still be held at the national police detention centre but under the custody of the prosecutors' office. A date for his trial has not been set. The 64-year-old Muslim cleric could face life in prison if convicted of treason.
Bashir fled to Malaysia in 1985 after serving a three year jail term for subversion but never notified the Indonesian embassy there so he could retain his Indonesian citizenship. He returned to Indonesia after the fall of dictator Suharto in 1998. Assegaf said lawyers had not been notified about Bashir's 6am (local time) handover.
"I was surprised. This is very unusual. Why do they have to take him very early in the morning? There's something fishy here," he told AFP, without elaborating. Thirty people have been arrested over the Bali blast.



Posted in Terrorism @ 28 February 2003 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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