Indonesian prosecutors on Friday charged the militant Muslim cleric Abubakar Baasyir under a new anti-terror law, accusing him of leading a terrorist organization linked to al Qaeda and encouraging terrorist acts, including last year's bombing of the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta.
The charges reopen a case that ended last year with Baasyir's acquittal on a similar charge, brought under the criminal code, of heading a terrorist group. Officials said that this time they had the evidence to convict him.
But Baasyir's lawyers said prosecutors could face difficulties. The constitutional court has ruled that the 2003 law cannot be applied retroactively. Much of the state's case relies on evidence that predates the law, police said.
Baasyir was arrested shortly after a deadly attack on two nightclubs in Bali in October 2002 and has been in custody ever since, in part to serve an 18-month sentence on immigration violations.
Officials said that the prosecution of Baasyir demonstrated their commitment to combating terrorism in a country that has experienced three major terrorist attacks: Bali, the August 2003 bombing of the Marriott and last month's car bombing in front of the Australian Embassy. All were blamed on Jemaah Islamiah, the group Baasyir is accused of leading.
"We reopened the case because we have strong evidence," said Ansyaad Mbai, counterterrorism coordinator under Indonesia's chief security minister. "Reopening the case is proof that we are very serious about dealing with terrorism."
A police investigator said that officials did not have evidence of Baasyir's direct involvement in any terrorist activity after the Bali attack. But they charged that as head of Jemaah Islamiah, he was complicit in the Marriott bombing, according to the indictment.
To help prove their case, prosecutors cite an April 2000 speech made by Baasyir in the southern Philippines to the first group of Jemaah Islamiah recruits to complete military training.
In that speech, the indictment says, he spoke of having met with Osama bin Laden. No date was mentioned. He also encouraged the militants to carry out jihad, or attacks on infidels, whom he equated with "America and her allies," according to a partial copy of the 65-page indictment.
Police and prosecutors said they would try to prove that his words inspired the recruits to commit acts of terror, including the Marriott bombing, which killed 12 people. The Bali attack killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.
Baasyir, 66, has repeatedly denounced the prosecution as politically motivated to curry favor with the United States and its allies. On Friday, his attorney predicted the prosecution would fail.
"The police don't have enough evidence to link the cleric with any terror acts in Indonesia," said the attorney, Achmad Michdan. "The testimonials from Jemaah Islamiah members are fabricated."
Special correspondent Noor Huda Ismail contributed to this report.