Cleric charged for terror plotting

2010-08-11 15:30

Jakarta - Indonesia's best-known radical Islamic cleric was charged on Wednesday with planning terrorist attacks, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of death, police said.

Abu Bakar Bashir was arrested on Monday for allegedly helping set up a fund for a terror cell that was plotting high-profile assassinations and attacks targeting foreigners at luxury hotels in the capital.

Investigators have collected strong evidence tying the fiery 71-year-old cleric to an al-Qaeda-linked terror cell discovered in westernmost Aceh province in February, said Ito Sumardi, chief detective for the national police.

"He has been officially detained and charged with violating the anti-terrorism law," Sumardi told reporters, adding that authorities compiled their case by combing Bashir's bank records, tapping telephone conversations, and hearing confessions from other suspected militants.

Bashir is best known as a co-founder and spiritual head of Jemaah Islamiyah, an al-Qaeda-linked network responsible for a string of suicide bombings in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

This includes the 2002 attacks on Bali Island that killed 202 people, most of them Western tourists.

He has been arrested twice before and spent several years in jail, but this is the first time officials say they have evidence directly linking him to terrorist activities.

Bashir faces a maximum penalty of death if found guilty, said Edward Aritonang, spokesperson for the national police.