Alleged terror leader sentenced over Bali bombings

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The Independent Online

An Indonesian court today sentenced alleged terror leader Abu Bakar Bashir to 30 months in prison for conspiracy in the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people, but cleared him of three more serious charges, including ordering the attack.

An Indonesian court today sentenced alleged terror leader Abu Bakar Bashir to 30 months in prison for conspiracy in the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people, but cleared him of three more serious charges, including ordering the attack.

Judges also cleared Bashir of planning the 2003 suicide bombing of the J.W. Marriott hotel, which killed 12 people, and of inciting his followers to launch deadly attacks.

Reading out its verdict, the five-judge panel said there was no evidence nor witnesses to prove that Bashir took part in an "evil conspiracy" to bomb the Marriott. Bashir was in jail at the time of the attack.

"The perpetrators of Marriott bombings admitted they did that on their own will... Therefore the defendant has to be acquitted from primary charges," the five-judge panel said in their verdict.

"Neither the defence witnesses nor the prosecutors' witnesses said that the defendant has planned or provoked other people to commit the bombings," the verdict said.

Bashir had faced a maximum penalty of death in the three more serious charges. The charge of conspiracy in the Bali bombings was considered a lesser charge.

Most analysts had predicted that Bashir would either walk free or receive a prison term far short of the maximum allowed - partly due to the weak case put forward by prosecutors.

The judges said that Bashir, who has been in jail since last April, would get credit for time served and could be out before the end of 2006.

A dozen heavily armed officers earlier escorted Bashir into the courtroom where he smiled and told reporters that US President George Bush was "evil." Some 1,000 policemen secured the building, where about 100 of Bashir's supporters attended the proceedings.

"I'm ready to listen," Bashir said before judges opened the proceedings, expected to take several hours. "If I'm released, the trial has been fair. If not, this has not been a fair trial. I will fight any sentence against me."

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