10/08/2012, 00.00
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Abu Bakar Baasyir moved to Indonesia's "Guantanamo"

by Mathias Hariyadi
The Muslim cleric is now in a maximum-security prison on a secluded island in Central Java. Since he continued to promote extremist propaganda from his cell in the headquarters of the police's mobile brigade in Jakarta, the authorities decided to move him. Now he will have fewer visits under stricter conditions.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Abu Bakar Baasyir, the Islamic cleric sentenced to 15 years in prison for crimes related to terrorism, will serve out his term in a prison on Nusa Kambangan Island, Cilacap District, Central Java province. The maximum-security penitentiary is also known as Indonesia's Guantanamo because it has held top criminals as well as "political prisoners" since General Suharto's dictatorship (1966 - 1998). Escape from the island is virtually impossible because of strong winds and high waves from the Indian Ocean.

Three important Indonesian terrorists were executed in the same penal facility: Amrozi, Imam Samudra and Ali Gufron. The three were sentenced to death for carrying out the Bali bombings in October 2002 that killed more than 200 people, mostly foreigners on a holiday in the world famous island.

The authorities decided to move Abu Bakar Baasyir to Indonesia's Guantanamo overnight last Friday, arriving the next day amid tight security.

National Anti-Terrorism Agency (BNPT) Inspector General (ret) Ansyaad Mbai had recently warned that from his cell in the headquarters of the police's mobile brigade in Jakarta, the radical cleric was able to receive affiliates and run his extremist organisation. This is why he had to be placed under stricter prison controls in a maximum-security prison, where visits will be limited and closely monitored.

Last February, the Indonesian Supreme Court upheld his 15-year sentence for funding underground paramilitary training for terrorists in Aceh province.

The radical cleric and his followers blame Washington for putting strong pressures on Indonesia. The country's highest court in fact overturned a decision by the Jakarta High Court to reduce the sentence to nine years from 15 as ordered by a lower court in June 2011.

Baasyir is a well-known Islamic cleric, founder of Jamaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT). A few days before the Supreme Court's decision, the US State Department described him as the leader of a terrorist group, and banned him from engaging in any transaction with US entities.

Before he set up JAT, Baasyir had founded the Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI) or Indonesian Mujahedeen Council, his first radical Islamic organisation.

He later left MMI over differences of opinion with other members on the issues of Sharia and the establishment of an Indonesian Islamic state.

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