JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) – The Supreme Court rejected an appeal by militant cleric Abu Bakar Bashir to overturn a 30-month prison sentence for his role in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings, a court official said Saturday.
Bashir blasted the decision, accusing the U.S. government of interfering in the judicial process, but victims of the violence said they were far from satisfied.
Bashir, the alleged spiritual head of the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah terror group, was convicted in March for conspiracy in the twin bombings that killed 202 people, many of them Australian tourists.
The Jakarta High Court upheld that decision in May, and Bashir appealed to the Supreme Court.
Judges decided in a closed-door session Wednesday that the verdict should stand, bringing an end to the appeals process, said Johanes Suhadi, a spokesman for the South Jakarta District Court. He had no other details and officials from the Supreme Court were not available for comment.
The 66-year-old Muslim cleric, who is bitterly anti-Western, will be freed from prison in September 2007. "I reject the Supreme Court decision," said Bashir, who has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence.
"The judges were pressured by the government and the United States," he said in a mobile phone text message to reporters.
Jemaah Islamiyah is suspected in several deadly attacks, including the 2003 J.W. Marriott hotel bombing that killed 12 people, and the United States and close ally Australia want Bashir to stay behind bars for as long as possible.
They both see Indonesia, the world”s most populous Muslim nation, as an important ally in the war on terror. The Australian father of one of the Bali bombing victims said Saturday the Supreme Court decision gave him no reason to celebrate.
Bashir”s 30-month sentence was "an insult," said Brian Deegan, who lost his 21-year-old son Josh in the bombings. The Indonesian government was "paying lip service" to Australia and victims of the attack by not pushing for a harsher punishment, he told The Associated Press.
Bashir”s lawyer, Muhammad Assegaf, said the court ruling did not change anything.
"My client is innocent," he said, adding that the judicial process has been marred every step of the way.
Bashir”s conviction is tied to allegations that one of the Bali bombers, Amrozi bin Nurhasyim, visited Bashir three months before the attacks to ask for his blessing.
Amrozi never testified at Bashir”s trial and prosecutors based their case on alleged conversations he had with police. Bashir denied the exchange ever occurred.