Archive for Friday, October 18, 2002

Indonesia to question cleric

Radical suspected in church bombings

October 18, 2002

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— Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, accused by neighboring countries of heading a regional terrorist group, was named by Indonesian police Thursday as a suspect in a series of church bombings and ordered to appear for questioning.

The move appears to be the first step in a crackdown on suspected terrorists in Indonesia after a weekend car bombing on the resort island of Bali that killed more than 180 people, mostly young foreigners.

President Megawati Sukarnoputri, who has been under pressure from the United States for months to take action against alleged terrorists, said Thursday she will issue an emergency decree enabling police to hold terror suspects without trial.

The order could trigger the immediate arrest of Islamic militants, including Bashir, who have been linked to terrorist activities by authorities in other countries but are living freely in Indonesia.

Megawati is expected to sign the decree today, and Bashir has been ordered to report to police Saturday. He denies any role in terrorist acts.

"To combat terrorism, the government needs a legal base," the president said. "So the government is going to issue a (decree) soon."

The presidential order will be similar to anti-terror legislation that has been stalled for months in parliament. Under the constitution, the president can bypass legislators in times of emergency and enact laws by decree.

One of the main targets is Bashir, 64, who is accused by Singapore and Malaysia of heading Jemaah Islamiah, a regional group Singaporean authorities say plotted to blow up the U.S. Embassy and six other targets in their nation last year.

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