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Indonesia high court reinstates 15-year sentence for radical cleric

The Supreme Court of Indonesia [official website, in Indonesian] on Monday restored a 15-year prison sentence for radical Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir [JURIST news archive] for his conviction on terrorism charges. Bashir appealed to the Supreme Court his conviction by the Jakarta High Court, which had reduced his prison sentence from 15 years to nine years [JURIST report], in an effort to be cleared of terrorism charges and released from prison altogether. However, the Supreme Court rejected Bashir's appeal and reinstated the original 15-year prison sentence [JURIST report]. Regarded as a spiritual leader of militant Islam in Indonesia, Bashir is a vocal advocate of violent jihad and was jailed in June for backing a terrorist training camp in the Indonesian province of Aceh. The training camp prepared Islamic radicals to carry out attacks in Jakarta and was allegedly planning attacks modeled after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks [JURIST news archive] and targeting high-profile members of the Indonesian government. Bashir was also accused of providing more than $62,000 to help fund the camp. A spokesperson for the court said Monday that the reinstatement of the stricter sentence shows the court's strict treatment [Jakarta Post report] of terrorism convictions.

Bashir's trial began in February 2011 [JURIST report] in the District Court of South Jakarta. He was convicted of inciting terrorism in connection with the terrorist training camp in May after having pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] the month before. He was suspected of links to al Qaeda [CFR backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) [CFR backgrounder], a terrorist group with links to al Qaeda that has been implicated in a number of attacks in Indonesia, including the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing [JURIST news archive] that left more than 200 people dead. In 2006, the Indonesian Supreme Court overturned [JURIST report] Bashir's conviction on conspiracy charges connecting him with the bombings. He was released from prison [JURIST report] earlier in 2006 after spending 26 months in jail on different charges related to the bombings.

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