Saudi acquitted of terrorism charges in Indonesia

JAKARTA, Indonesia – A retired Saudi Arabian teacher was acquitted Monday of charges he helped finance last year’s attacks on two luxury hotels in the capital that left seven dead and wounded more than 50.

A panel of judges at the South Jakarta District Court, however, sentenced Al Khelaiw Ali Abdullah to 18 months in prison for violating immigration laws. They said the 55-year-old, who had been running an Internet cafe east of Jakarta, entered the country several times since 2008 and ran business without a proper visa.

The July 17, 2009, attacks on the J.W. Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels in the world’s most populous Muslim nation ended a four-year lull in suicide bombings blamed on the al Qaida-linked regional network, Jemaah Islamiyah and its affiliates. Together, more than 260 people have died, many of them foreign tourists.

Abdullah was accused of lending money to Syaefudin Zuhri, one of the alleged masterminds of last year’s hotel attacks, after meeting him and a man who later turned out to be one of the suicide bombers at the airport in Jakarta. Zuhri, who was killed by anti-terror police during a raid in October, helped the Saudi by sponsoring his six-month visa.

“From evidence presented at the trial, the panel concluded the defendant knew nothing about Zuhri’s background,” said presiding judge Ida Bagus Dwiyantara. “Therefore he was proven not guilty of the main charges (terrorism).”

The same court earlier sentenced five militants to up to eight years in jail in connection with the bombings.

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