'US should have given Jakarta access to Hambali'

Updated On: Mar 08, 2005

Jakarta - Indonesia hasindirectly blamed the US for the failure of the Indonesian prosecution to present a stronger case against alleged terror leader, cleric Abu Bakar Bashir. Many foreign countries had expressed unhappiness over the 30-month jailsentence imposed on Bashir for an "evilconspiracy” that led to the 2002 Bali bombings.

Indonesia said on March 4 that the court verdict should be respected and that the US could have strengthened the prosecution against Bashir by giving Jakarta access to other terror suspects.

"The (verdict) was quite appropriate because it was clearly a matter fully within (Indonesia's) judicial process,"Ministryof Foreign Affairs spokesman Marty Natalegawa said.

He noted that the United States had refused to allow Indonesian law enforcers to directly question top terror suspect Hambali, whose information might have reinforced the prosecution against Bashir.

Hambali, an alleged senior operative of both Jemaah Islamiah and Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda, is being held by the US authorities at a secret location following his arrest in Thailand in August 2003.

"Our view is that it is better for them to invest in this legal process by, for example, giving the Indonesian government access to Hambali," Mr Marty was quoted by AFP as saying.

The South Jakarta District Court on March 3 sentenced Bashir for his involvement in an "evil conspiracy" that led to the Bali bombings but cleared him of more serious charges of planning terrorist attacks.

The governments and politicians in theUnited States, Australiaand New Zealand said they were disappointed with the verdict, which they believed was too light.

In an editorial looking atthe verdict, The Jakarta Post said: “Apart from touching on some of the most fundamental, universally recognised principles of justice, Bashir’s case thus personifies the precarious position thatIndonesia -as the world's most populous Muslim nation - occupies in the global tug-of-war, between the fight against terror and the principle of equality before the law.

"In the final instance, at stake is the direction in which the nation's efforts at judicial reform and its democracy are headed.”

* RI defends Ba’asyir verdict, points finger at US (The Jakarta Post, March 5)

* Ba’asyir’s conviction (The Jakarta Post, March 5)