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3/16/04 - INDONESIAN TERRORIST BASHIR - 2004-03-15

The Indonesian terrorist leader Abu Bakar Bashir is currently in prison. But on March 9th, the Indonesian Supreme Court reportedly decided to cut Bashir’s three-year sentence to eighteen months. This means he could be released within weeks.

Releasing Bashir from prison would be especially disappointing for relatives of the more than two-hundred people killed in the October 2002 terrorist bombings in Bali, Indonesia. Those bombings were perpetrated by Jemaah Islamiyah, the terrorist group that Abu Bakar Bashir helped to establish.

At Bashir’s trial last September, says U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, extensive evidence was presented “that described his leadership role, and his personal involvement in terrorist activities”:

“The murder of innocent men, women, and children and other violent acts such as bombings in Indonesia demonstrate that terrorism is a grave threat to the security of Indonesia and her neighbors, and we believe that Indonesia and its government need to stand firm against this threat.”

Until his arrest in October 2002, Abu Bakar Bashir was the leader of the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah, or “Community of Islam.” Despite its misleading name, the overwhelming majority of Muslims in southeast Asia reject this terrorist group’s agenda and activities. Jemaah Islamiyah is committed to establishing an extremist Islamic state covering the territory of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the southern Philippines.

Abu Bakar Bashir is also the co-founder of a Muslim boarding school in Solo, Indonesia. Under his direction, the school has encouraged Islamic extremism in the same way as the madrassas that produced the former Taleban in Afghanistan. A number of major terrorists graduated from Bashir’s school, including Ali Ghufron, known as Mukhlas, who has been given a death sentence for his role in the Bali bombings.

By bringing to justice Mukhlas -- and other terrorists -- Indonesian authorities show that they are serious about fighting the war on terrorism.