06/06/2006, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Abu Bakar Bashir to be released shortly

The Islamic cleric's sentence was reduced. He had been found guilty of "complicity" in the 2002 Bali bombings. He will be released next week after 26 months in prison and will return to teaching in the infamous Ngruki school, breeding ground of terrorists.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Islamic religious leader, Abu Bakar Bashir, imprisoned in connection with the 2002 Bali bombings will be released next week for good behaviour and will resume his teachings at the infamous Ngruki Islamic school, his lawyer, Mahendradata, said.

Bashir, who has denied any involvement in the attacks, will be freed on June 14 after completing 26 months. The district court had sentenced him to 30 months in prison – a sentence upheld by the Supreme Court – and his terms was reduced by a few months for good conduct. According to the sentence handed down last year, "the defendant knew the perpetrators of the Bali bombs were people who had been taught how to make bombs in Pakistan and Afghanistan… we found conditions of complicity". The prosecution had called for eight years.

Bashir has been accused of leading the terrorist group of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), which is spread through South-east Asia and has links to Al-Qaeda. This charge was dropped for lack of evidence. The Muslim cleric was, over 30 years ago, one of the founders of the Ngruki school near Solo, attended by many Indonesian terrorists.

Mahendradata said he hoped the government would not bow to foreign pressure by finding another reason to keep his client behind bars. Bashir's assistant, Hasyim, has often accused the US and Australia of playing a key role in the Islamic cleric's imprisonment. Australia lost 88 citizens in the 2002 Bali blasts, when 202 people were killed.

The JI is accused of carrying out the worst terrorist attacks in Indonesia, including the 2003 and 2004 bombings at the Marriott Hotel and the Australian embassy in Jakarta and the latest bombings in Bali that killed 20 people last year.

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