Firebrand cleric praises bin Laden

Firebrand cleric praises bin Laden

Osama bin Laden was a “warrior” who will be rewarded in heaven for the “great sacrifices” he made for Islam, Indonesia’s best-known radical cleric said today.

Abu Bakar Bashir, accused of helping set up a terror training camp in western Aceh province, made the comments before proceedings at his ongoing trial in Jakarta.

Prosecutors today demanded life in prison for the fiery 72-year-old cleric, saying he helped plan and fund terrorist activities in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

Bashir, who was co-founder of the al Qaida-linked network Jemaah Islamiyah, which has been blamed for some of the country’s deadliest suicide bombings, had no immediate comment about the sentencing request.

He had earlier told reporters that bin Laden was “a great mujahid (Muslim warrior)”.

“If it’s true that he’s been killed, his face destroyed and disposed of in the sea, he will get a great honour from God and will get a great reward,” he said.

Bashir, who has twice escaped terror charges, is now accused of helping set up, fund and recruit foot-soldiers for an Aceh-based terror cell which was allegedly planning Mumbai-style gun attacks on foreigners and the assassination of high-profile moderate Muslim leaders like President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The white-bearded, bespectacled cleric has denied involvement, but has said repeatedly he approved of its aim.

Chief prosecutor Andi Muhammad Taufik said today that evidence from dozens of witnesses during the course of Bashir’s trial prove that he not only incited others but played an active role in terrorist activities.

Indonesia, a secular nation of 237 million with more Muslims than any other in the world, has made strides in fighting terrorism since the first and deadliest Jemaah Islamiyah-linked attack on Bali.

More than 260 people have died altogether, many of them Western tourists.

But the country still faces pockets of radicalised Islamists and a small but increasingly vocal hardline fringe has frayed nerves in recent months with violent attacks on minorities and police.

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