Indonesian prosecutors on Monday dropped the most serious terror charges against radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir for lack of evidence, leaving him facing a possible life sentence instead of death. Prosecutors at his trial in Jakarta said the charge of providing firearms and explosives for terrorist acts, for which the 72-year-old preacher could have faced the death penalty, “could not be proven convincingly”.
The charge of inciting acts of terrorism was also dropped, leaving only the accusation of providing funding to a terrorist group, for which the prosecutors sought a maximum life sentence. Hundreds of Bashir’s radical followers erupted into chants of support for the man who is widely regarded as a spiritual leader of Southeast Asian jihadists.
Some 2,500 heavily armed police were on hand to prevent violence, but Islamist hardliners at the court instead welcomed the stiffest charges being dropped as a victory. Bashir now stands accused only of providing funds to the so-called Al-Qaeda in Aceh group that was planning Mumbai-style attacks in Indonesia, according to police.