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indonesia reduces time for Bali bombers

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these areas like indonesia and malaysia will be even more of a problem with the radical islamics than iraq etc....time will tell

By IRWAN FIRDAUS, Associated Press Writer

Wed Aug 17, 8:58 AM ET

JAKARTA, Indonesia - The Indonesian government Wednesday reduced prison sentences for 19 people, including the alleged spiritual head of an al-Qaida-linked group, convicted in the Bali nightclub bombings that killed 202 people. One other person was freed.

The reductions were met with dismay in Australia, home to most of the victims of the 2002 attacks.

Cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, who originally was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in the 2002 attacks, had his sentence reduced by 4 1/2 months, said Dedi Sutardi, chief warden at Cipinang Prison in Jakarta.

The reduction, which came on Bashir's 67th birthday, means he could be released from prison in June 2006. Bashir is believed to be the spiritual leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah militant group.

Many in Australia consider the Bali bombings tantamount to an attack on their own country.

The Australian ambassador to Indonesia, David Ritchie, spoke with Indonesian officials but was told nothing could be done to reverse it, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said.

"If there are any further avenues that we can legitimately pursue we will do so, but it should be borne in mind that all countries have a certain independence when it comes to the penal and justice system," Howard said in Sydney.

The other 18 prisoners — all of them originally sentenced to up to 16 years — were given three-month reductions, according to Bromo Setiono, chief warden at Kerobokan jail in Bali's capital, Denpasar, and Paulus Sugeng, a Justice and Human Right Department official.

No information was available about the freed inmate.

It is an Indonesian tradition to cut jail terms on holidays for some of the country's 105,000 inmates who exhibit good behavior, with only those sentenced to death or life in prison excluded.

"This is a basic right of all prisoners in Indonesia, including Bashir," said Mohammad Mahendratta, a lawyer representing the militant cleric. "Here we consider prison sentences as a way to rehabilitate inmates — not as revenge."

But Australian Brian Deegan, whose 21-year-old son was killed in the blasts, called the decision "disgraceful" and urged the Australian government to protest angrily to Jakarta.

The sentence reduction for Bashir "just does not reflect the gravity of the crime, and secondly it does not reflect any governmental action to defeat terrorism" in Indonesia, Deegan told The Associated Press.

Bashir, who is bitterly anti-Western, was convicted in March of conspiracy in the near simultaneous bombings on two crowded nightclubs. The Supreme Court recently rejected his appeal.

Jemaah Islamiyah is suspected in several other deadly attacks, including the 2003 J.W. Marriott hotel bombing that killed 12 people, and the September 2004 Australian Embassy bombing that killed 11.

Five in the Kerobokan jail, including accused mastermind Imam Samudra, were excluded from the reductions because three were sentenced to death and two others for life in prison.

Samudra yelled to television reporters that until Indonesia became an Islamic state, it should not celebrate independence.

"We are not independent!" he shouted. "If we were independent we would have Islamic law!"

It was not immediately clear if nine other Bali bombers in jails elsewhere in Indonesia also would have their sentences cut.

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