The Jakarta Post, 12/21/2004 12:29:39 PM
Ba'asyir linked to JI: Malaysian witness
JAKARTA (AFP): Indonesian prosecutors' bid to link cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir to
Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) took a step forward Tuesday when a confessed senior member
of the extremist group identified the elderly preacher as its leader.
Mohammad Nasir Abbas, a Malaysian former JI regional commander convicted for
immigration offences, told Ba'asyir's trial that he had been informed of the
66-year-old's appointment by another key militant in 2000.
Ba'asyir is accused of leading the extremist group, said to have links to Al-Qaeda,
and of inciting followers to carry out the October 2002 Bali attacks in which 202 died
and a deadly blast last year on Jakarta's Marriott hotel.
If convicted he faces a possible death sentence. Efforts to link him the group, blamed
for other attacks in Indonesia including a recent strike on Australia's embassy, have
suffered setbacks as a series of earlier statements from convicted militants all denied
Abbas told the trial in Jakarta that he had been informed by fellow JI operative Hambali
at a militant camp in the Philippines that Ba'asyir had taken over as head after the
death of his predecessor, Abdullah Sungkar.
He said he then passed the information on to another member of the organisation,
Mustofa, alias Imron Baehaqi.
"After I heard it from Hambali, I told Ustadz (teacher) Mustofa that the Emir of the JI
has now been replaced by ustadz Abu Bakar Bashir," Abbas told the court.
Abbas said he had believed Hambali's statement. "Among fellow JI members, we have
a tradition of mutual faith in what the other says," Abbas said.
Last week Baehaqi denied before the same court that he had seen Ba'asyir at the
Philippine training camp and said he could not confirm the religious teacher was head
Five other witnesses were scheduled to make an appearance at Ba'asyir's trial on
Tuesday, but three declined to attend.
Convicted Bali bombers Ali Imron and Mubarak both said in a letter read out in court,
that they had already testified on Ba'asyir during the cleric's trial last year and that
"there are no new matters," to inform the court.
A Balinese witness, Putu Eka Mastawan, declined to testify saying business
commitments prevented him leaving the resort island.
Ba'ahir was cleared last year by an Indonesian court of leading JI, which seeks to
create an Islamic fundamentalist state in Southeast Asia, but police say they have
new evidence of his leadership role.
The cleric was arrested a week after the Bali blasts and has remained in detention
ever since. Prosecutors have said in their indictment that he orchestrated the Marriott
bombing from his cell.
Ba'asyir has described the indictment as "legal fiction" and said he had nothing to
gain from acts of terrorism since they would only fuel interference in Indonesia by
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