Indonesian authorities on Wednesday charged well-known radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir with aiding an al Qaeda [CFR backgrounder; JURIST news archive] linked terrorist cell. Bashir, who was arrested Monday [Kompas report, in Indonesian] is accused of operating a terrorist training camp in the mountains of the northwestern province of Aceh to prepare Islamic radicals to carry out attacks in the capital of Jakarta. The cleric has long been rumored to be associated with Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) [CFR backgrounder], a terrorist group with links to al Qaeda that has been implicated in a multitude of attacks in the island nation, including a 2002 Bali nightclub bombing [JURIST news archive] that left more than 200 people dead. Bashir has repeatedly denied having ties with JI, but prosecutors claim an Indonesian National Police (INP) [official website, in Indonesian] investigation has unearthed [Kompas report, in Indonesian] both witness testimony and financial documents decisively tying him to the group. During an interrogation at INP headquarters in Jakarta Wednesday, Bashir answered only one of 50 questions [Kompas report, in Indonesian], responding only to an inquiry as to where he was arrested. Bashir will be charged under Law No. 15 of 2003 [text, in Indonesian], an anti-terrorism statute passed in the aftermath of the Bali nightclub bombing. He faces a maximum penalty of death.
In 2006, the Indonesian Supreme Court [official website, in Indonesian] overturned [JURIST report] Bashir's conviction by a lower court on conspiracy charges connecting him with the 2002 Bali bombings. He was released from prison [JURIST report] earlier in 2006 after spending 26 months in jail on different charges related to the bombings. His sentence was reduced [JURIST report] in 2005 pursuant to Indonesian custom in observance of the country's independence day.