Profile: Abu Bakar Ba'asyir

Abu Bakar Ba'asyir Abu Bakar Ba'asyir has always denied any involvement in terrorism

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For the past four decades, radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir has been in and out of jail, repeatedly accused of supporting terrorism. But the 72-year-old has insisted he is just a simple preacher.

According to many people, both in Indonesia and abroad, Ba'asyir is or was the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), a shadowy group with links to al-Qaeda.

He has voiced support for al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, though he denied having personal links with him or with any terrorist group.

In March 2005, he was jailed for conspiracy over the 2002 Bali bombings, in which 202 people died - but his conviction was eventually quashed on appeal.

In June this year judges jailed him for 15 years for supporting a militant training camp.

It is the longest sentence he has yet received, but analysts are already questioning what effect it will have, because he can still preach his message from his jail cell.

School founder

Born in 1938, in East Java, Ba'asyir has spent decades teaching religion, and became influential among radical Muslims in South East Asia during the 1970s.

The consistent theme of his teachings has been that Islamic communities are the necessary pre-condition for setting up an Islamic state.

In 1972, he co-founded the Al-Mukmin Islamic boarding school in Ngruki, Central Java, with Abdullah Sangkar.

Start Quote

I support Osama Bin Laden's struggle because his is the true struggle to uphold Islam, not terror - the terrorists are America and Israel”

End Quote Abu Bakar Ba'asyir October 2002

Many graduates of the school have been implicated in Islamist militant attacks, and the International Crisis Group describes the school as the "Ivy League" for recruits to Jemaah Islamiah.

In the late 1970s, he was jailed for subversion by authoritarian leader Suharto after he was accused of promoting an Islamic state.

He later fled to Malaysia and lived in exile to avoid additional jail time, only returning to Indonesia following the fall of Suharto in 1998.

Almost immediately he renewed his campaign for Indonesia to become a strict Sharia state.

'Evil conspiracy'

Following the Bali bombings in 2002, Ba'asyir was arrested and accused in connection with a number of bomb attacks, including the attack on the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta in 2003, which killed 14 people.

He was even accused of planning the assassination of Megawati Sukarnoputri, Indonesia's former president.

But prosecutors struggled to make any of the charges stick.

Abu Bakar Ba'asyir exiting Cipinang Jail on 14 June 2006 after 26 months in jail, Indonesia He was convicted of conspiracy over the Bali bomb attacks but was later cleared

In October 2004, he was charged with involvement in the Bali and Marriott Hotel attacks.

After a trial, judges ruled that he had not been directly involved in the attacks, but he had given his approval.

He was sentenced to 30 months in jail for being part of an "evil conspiracy". Charges related to the Marriott attack were dismissed.

He was released in June 2006, and had his conviction overturned by the Supreme Court six months later.

The cleric has repeatedly denied all the charges against him, as well as any link with JI, and condemned the Bali bombing as a "brutal act".

In May 2010, Ba'asyir returned to the spotlight when officers raided the headquarters of the Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) - a group he had established in 2008.

Three JAT members were arrested and accused of having links to a militant training camp in Aceh.

The Aceh group - which included members of most of Indonesia's high-profile militant groups - was accused of plotting to form a militia capable of attacking high-level government targets, as a prelude to forming an Islamic state.

On 9 August 2010, Ba'asyir was arrested in West Java by anti-terror police and accused of having links to the Aceh camp.

He was convicted of providing funding to the camp and playing an active part in setting it up.

He has always insisted he has no links with the training camp, and JAT has denied any connection to extremism, insisting it is a legitimate Islamic organisation.

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