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Cleric jailed on terror charge

The Indonesian Muslim cleric known as the spiritual leader of the militants who carried out the 2002 Bali bombings has been jailed for 15 years for his support of a terror training camp.

Abu Bakar Bashir's conviction for incitement of terrorism followed two unsuccessful attempts by prosecutors over the past eight years to link him to terror activities, including a conviction that was later overturned in the Bali attacks that killed 202 people.

The sentence against Bashir, now 72, was announced amid high security at a Jakarta court, where nearly 3,200 police and soldiers secured the area after bomb threats spread through Twitter and text messages.

Bashir, who denied involvement in terrorism, rejected the ruling, and his lawyer said he would appeal. "This verdict ignores Sharia law and is based on the infidel law, so it's forbidden for me to accept it," Bashir said in the courtroom.

Hundreds of Bashir's supporters, some carrying placards saying "Free Abu Bakar Bashir", reacted to the ruling with shock. Many shouted "God is Great" and others wept, but their leaders called for calm and the crowd dispersed peacefully.

The ageing cleric has been a potent symbol for Indonesia's radical Islamists and, even if not operationally involved in terrorist attacks, is believed by experts to provide crucial ideological sanction for violent extremism.

Prosecutors said Bashir provided key support for a jihadi training camp discovered in early 2010 in Aceh province which brought together men from almost every known Indonesian extremist group.

Militants there allegedly intended to carry out attacks on foreigners and assassinations of moderate Muslim leaders such as Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Bashir was found guilty of inciting terrorism in connection with the jungle camp. But he was not convicted of a charge of funding terrorist activities, with the panel of judges saying there was not enough evidence.

Jemaah Islamiyah, the radical group co-founded by Bashir, thrust Indonesia into the front lines of the battle against terrorism with its 2002 bombings on the tourist island of Bali that killed 202 people, including 28 Britons and many Australians and Americans.

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