Prosecutors demand life for radical Indonesia cleric

Jakarta, Indonesia – Prosecutors in Indonesia demanded a life sentence Monday for radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir for a series of terror-related charges, including planning, attempting, funding and inciting terrorism. Some of the charges carry a maximum penalty of death.

It’s the third trial of the fiery Bashir, who was most recently detained in August for suspected links to a militant training camp that was raided by authorities in Aceh in early 2010.

Police have said Bashir and his organization, the Jamaat Tawhid Anshoru or JAT, were involved in setting up the camp, and authorities have said militants were preparing to launch assassination attempts on Indonesian government officials.

Authorities also accuse Bashir of plotting attacks like the 2008 Mumbai, India, assault on hotels and a train station that left hundreds dead in a siege lasting several days.

He denies the charges, and has often said there is a U.S.-led conspiracy to put him behind bars.

One of Bashir’s lawyers, Adnan Wirawan, said Monday the call for life in prison is “too harsh for something that the prosecution failed to prove in court. They’re aiming too high and I think it’s unreasonable and I think the court will be of the same opinion.”

In the past, authorities have tried but failed to directly link Bashir to major terror attacks in Indonesia.

In the first two trials, prosecutors tried to directly link him to the 2002 bombings in Bali and the 2003 J.W. Marriott bomb attack in Jakarta. The courts found him guilty of relatively minor charges. He was released in June 2006, after serving 25 months in jail.

Known for his inflammatory rhetoric, Bashir was accused of being the spiritual leader of Indonesia’s homegrown terror network, Jemaah Islamiyah, who inspired many of those involved in the bombings.

Bashir’s lawyers will begin their closing statement May 25. A ruling is expected within weeks of the conclusion of arguments.

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