Bali bombers won’t walk free, says Jakarta

Assurance comes a day after court rules anti-terror law should not be retroactive.

TOP judicial officials yesterday tried to douse a raging controversy that has erupted over fears that extremists involved in the Bali bombings might walk free.

Justice Minister Yusril Ihza Mahendra made clear that the convictions for the bloody attack on Oct 12, 2002, were still valid.

Concerns that they might be overruled were sparked by a Constitutional Court ruling on Friday that said tough anti-terror laws passed in the months after the Bali blasts could not be used against crimes committed before their enactment.

Several lawyers of the 32 militants convicted of Indonesia’s worst terror attack said their clients planned to appeal.

But the Justice Minister said: ‘Their convictions remain legal because they were made before the ruling. As for cases which are still in court or in the appeal process, we leave it to judges to consider.’

He was backed by chief judge Jimly Asshidique, who led the panel that ruled 5-4 that the powerful anti-terror laws were unconstitutional because they were applied to cases that occurred before they became law.

The nine judges were considering an appeal by Masykur Abdul Kadir who was jailed for 15 years for helping the Bali bombers.

‘The Constitutional Court ruling does not apply retroactively either,’ Judge Asshidique told AFP news agency, when asked about the implication of the court’s ruling on the Bali convictions.

He gave no further details.

Mr Yusril was clearly concerned about international reactions to the ruling, especially those in Australia, whose citizens accounted for most of the 202 people killed in the blasts.

He said that all legal actions taken in the Bali case still stand and that the anti-terror law was still in place.

‘We still have a law to tackle terrorism in Indonesia,’ he said.

The anti-terror decree allows for the death sentence and the detention of suspects for six months without trial and was made retroactive to cover the Bali attack.

Mr Yusril noted that the Constitutional Court had revoked the subsidiary law that dealt with the Bali bombings.

Of the 32 terrorists convicted in the massacre, three of them – Amrozi, Imam Samudra and Mukhlas – have been sentenced to death.

The government’s bold response has done little to stop attorneys of the Bali bombers from calling for fresh appeals and judicial reviews.

But it is not going to be easy getting the terrorists out of jail.

Golkar deputy chairman and legal expert Marzuki Darusman told The Sunday Times: ‘Psychologically, it has strengthened the hand of the defence lawyers. We are going to see many of them rushing in to make appeals for their clients.

‘In reality, it is not going to be a cakewalk. They are going to find it hard because they have to go through a very complex and protracted legal process that could take forever.’

Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of the Jemaah Islamiah terrorist network, appeared not to have won a reprieve either.

Mr Yusril insisted yesterday that Bashir would remain in detention. Prosecutors would charge him applying provisions in the criminal code.

‘His case is under investigation and he was detained before the Constitutional Court ruling which means the detention remains legal,’ he told reporters.

He was detained before the Constitutional Court ruling which means the detention remains legal.’

– Justice Minister Yusril Ihza Mahendra on fears that the ruling might mean the release of Jemaah Islamiah spiritual leader Abu Bakar Bashir (left)

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