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Indonesian Islamic cleric could face death penalty, police say

From Andy Saputra, CNN
Abu Bakar Bashir may face the death penalty.
Abu Bakar Bashir may face the death penalty.
  • Abu Bakar Bashir is accused of helping establish a terror cell and military training camp
  • Police submitted their formal investigation to prosecutors Monday
  • Prosecutors promise a speedy trial for Bashir

Jakarta, Indonesia (CNN) -- An Islamic cleric accused of helping fund and establish a terror cell and military training camp could face the death penalty, according to the formal investigation submitted to prosecutors Monday.

Abu Bakar Bashir was detained August 9, when police said he played a key role in the establishment of a militant training camp in Indonesia's Aceh region.

"All terrorism charges carry the death penalty," said Indonesian police spokesman Boy Rafli. "He is suspected with illegal possession of weapons, sheltering wanted terrorist suspects and concealing information about known terrorists."

Along with their investigation, police also submitted to prosecutors dozens of pieces of evidence, including assault rifles and ammunition.

Muhammad Yusuf, the head of the South Jakarta Prosecutor's Office, promised a swift trial for Bashir.

"The harshest allegation is inciting others to commit crimes of terrorism," he was quoted by the Indonesian news service Antara as saying. "We will process the case immediately. We want to try him quickly."

Bashir "rejects and denies all the charges against him," lawyer Achmad Michdan said in August.

The Muslim cleric has refused to answer questions in his interrogations. Bashir believes his arrest was a result of pressure by the west, particularly the United States, Michdan said.

Bashir -- a religious leader known for his anti-Western rhetoric -- has been arrested twice previously for his activities in connection with militant groups.

Edward Aritonang, a national police spokesman, said in August that authorities had strong evidence Bashir played a role in establishing a terror cell and a militant training camp in Aceh province.

Police raided that camp in February and arrested dozens of militants who allegedly were planning terror attacks in Indonesia similar to those that took place in Mumbai, India, in 2008.

Officials said Bashir knew about that camp, helped fund it and appointed religious teachers to provide the militants with spiritual guidance. Bashir allegedly appointed an extremist fugitive known as Dulmatin as the field commander.

Dulmatin was killed in another police raid shortly afterward.

In May, several members of a hardline organization Bashir founded -- the Jama'ah Ansharut Tauhid, or JAT -- were also arrested and charged with raising funds for the training camp.

Bashir was first arrested after the Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people in 2002. At the time, he was the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, whose stated goal is to create an Islamic state comprising Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the southern Philippines.

He was charged with terrorism and immigration violations and served 18 months in jail.

Two years later, before his expected release in 2004, Bashir was arrested again on charges of helping incite the August 2003 bombing of the Marriott hotel in Jakarta.

He served two-and-a-half years in jail and was released in June 2006. In 2008, Bashir established Jama'ah Ansharut Tauhid.