16 Jun 2011

Bashir jailed 15 years on terrorism charges

8:10 pm on 16 June 2011

Indonesian militant cleric Abu Bakar Bashir has been found guilty of terrorism charges and jailed for 15 years.

Bashir was accused of helping to organise and fund a jihadi training camp in western Aceh province that was planning to attack government targets and impose an Islamic state.

He denied involvement with the camp, but repeatedly defended it as legal under Islam, the ABC reports.

Prosecutors at the Jakarta court had sought a life sentence. His lawyers have said they will appeal against the verdict.

The 72-year-old Muslim cleric is seen by some as a spiritual leader of Islamist militants in south-east Asia.

He is widely believed to responsible for inspiring the Bali bombings in 2002, which killed 202 people, including two New Zealanders and 88 Australians in the tourist district of Kuta.

It is the third time Bashir has been on trial for alleged participation in extremist activities. Police detained him after the Bali bombings, but his conviction was overturned after serving 26 months in jail.

Bashir was defiant to the end, telling the ABC the jihad (holy war) in Indonesia will continue, regardless of the trial's outcome.

Earlier, he arrived at the South Jakarta district courthouse flanked by his lawyers and counter-terrorism police, claiming the trial was being held at the behest of Australia and the United States.

When asked for his view on his young followers who have threatened to launch terror attacks if he is convicted, Bashir replied: "They should retaliate - not to defend me, but to defend Islam."

Bashir has been involved in radical Islamic groups in Indonesia for four decades. Over the years, he has been repeatedly arrested, jailed and then released.

Hundreds of supporters rallied outside the court to await the verdict on Thursday.

More than 3000 armed police, including snipers, have been deployed to the court and surrounding area, while bomb squad officers are stationed at various locations around Jakarta.