Enough proof to take Bashir to court

Indonesian police yesterday tightened the screws on militant cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, saying they had enough evidence, including witness statements from Singapore and Malaysia, to charge him in court.

‘His refusal to answer questions will harm his own case. I think police have enough evidence to question him,’ Justice Minister Yusril Ihza Mahendra said, although there was no indication when his case would be brought to trial.

His comments come after months of foot-dragging in which the police appeared reluctant to act against the 64-year-old suspect – and even cast doubt on information from neighbouring countries.

But police are now investigating several charges based on confessions from detained Al-Qaeda operative Omar Al-Farouq and others.

Analysts said Jakarta’s tougher stance stemmed from Bashir’s growing intransigence and refusal to cooperate.

Police said they were no longer needed to obtain an admission of guilt from him as there was strong evidence, including statements from ‘local witnesses as well as documents’, to support the investigation.

The evidence included testimony from Malaysian national Faiz Abu Bakar Bafana to the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore on Sept 4, immigration documents and statements from individuals in Kuala Lumpur, and reports on the Batam church bombings of Christmas Eve, 2000.

Confessions from detainees led police to assert that Bashir is linked with Omar, one of Osama bin Laden’s top regional operatives.

Sources said Jakarta had not acted earlier because more time was needed to corroborate the information.

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