Indonesians assail criticism of Bashir trial's verdict

JAKARTA, INDONESIA — JAKARTA, Indonesia - Indonesians across the political spectrum are lashing back at international criticism of the verdict in the trial of the militant Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, who was acquitted of terrorism charges Tuesday. The Indonesians say that the United States refused to share intelligence information that would have helped convict him and that it is unseemly for Western democracies to criticize the outcome of a public trial.

The court found that the cleric was not the leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist organization, and it sentenced him to four years for sedition, arising from his support for an Islamic state.


"This nascent democracy does not need any backlash from the U.S. and its allies," the moderate Jakarta Post, the country's largest English-language daily, wrote in an editorial Friday. "What it does need is honest global cooperation in its war against terrorism."

"There was important information missing from Bashir's trial, which could have been gotten from Hambali," said Indonesia's foreign minister, Hassan Wirayada. "This information would have connected Bashir with the Jemaah Islamiyah terror group."


Hambali, considered a top operative of al-Qaida and a leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, is an Indonesian whose real name is Riduan Isamuddin. He was seized last month by the CIA and the Thai police, working together. The United States is holding him at a secret location and has not let foreign interrogators near him.

The United States and Australia withheld considerable information collected by their intelligence agencies about Bashir from the Indonesian prosecutors, said officials from those countries. Generally, the United States is reluctant to share intelligence information, even with close allies, out of concern for disclosing sources and methods.

The official and public reaction to the criticism of the Bashir verdict shows how delicate the United States' task here is. Its prodding, and Australia's, has moved Indonesia to take a harder line on terrorism, including arresting Bashir, who had been considered untouchable.

Indonesians bristle at the suggestions - mostly from Western journalists, analysts, pundits and officials - that the verdict raises questions about the country's commitment to fighting terrorism. Mistrust of the United States has hardened since the war in Iraq and the failure to find unconventional weapons, said Bambang Harymurti, a newspaper and magazine editor.