Bali bombings suspect not charged

Thursday, July 29, 2004

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Police won't charge militant cleric Abu Bakar Bashir in the 2002 Bali bombings, officials said Wednesday, after Indonesia's constitutional court curbed the use of a tough anti-terror law.

Prosecutors still plan to charge Bashir with heading Jemaah Islamiyah, the al-Qaida linked terror group blamed for Oct. 12, 2002, Bali bombings. The blasts killed 202 people, mostly foreigners.

He also said Bashir would be charged in other crimes, including the deadly bombing of the J.W. Marriott Hotel last year in Jakarta.

It's unclear whether the decision will make it more difficult to secure a conviction against Bashir, who successfully beat terror charges last year. Foreign governments maintain he is a key Southeast Asian dterrorist.

Bashir attorney Wirawan Adnan said the decision was further proof that the case against his client was weak.

"They are trying to find whatever reason they can to keep him in jail," he said. "This is only proves they are doing this because of foreign influence."

Wednesday's announcement is the first sign that the Constitutional Court ruling last Friday on the use of the terror law could hamper efforts to prosecute militants. The court ruled that the law rushed through parliament in the wake of the Oct. 12, 2002 Bali bombings could not be used for crimes committed before its enactment.

The decision meant police could no longer use the law to charge Bashir over the Bali blasts -- something they said they had intended to do.

"Our (investigation) into Bashir in connection with the Bali bombing will be dropped," Landung said.

He said police would still use the anti-terror law to try Bashir where it remained valid. He said officers could also use the country's criminal code if needed.

Lawyers for Bashir have demanded he be freed because of Friday's ruling, but authorities said he would remain in jail pending his trial.

Bashir was originally tried last year but a Jakarta court failed to convict him on charges he led Jemaah Islamiyah, which has been blamed for a string of attacks in Southeast Asia. He was instead convicted of immigration violations.

Under pressure from the United States, he was re-arrested after being released in April and has remained in jail ever since.

Before this arrest, U.S. Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge has said Bashir had "intense and deep involvement in the planning and execution of terrorist activities." Australia's foreign minister called Bashir a "loathsome creature" and urged Jakarta not to release him.

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