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Bashir case takes centre stage in Australia-I -

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Broadcast: 16/06/2006

Bashir case takes centre stage in Australia-Indonesia relations

Reporter: Geoff Thompson

MAXINE McKEW: A new disagreement is looming in the already troubled Australia-Indonesia
relationship. At the centre of it, the release this week of firebrand Muslim cleric, Abu Bakar
Bashir and a dispute over respect for sovereign national law. Indonesia is today calling for
Australia to show the same respect for its legal system's handling of the Bashir case as it was
asked to demonstrate for Australia's dealings with the Papuan asylum seekers. As our Jakarta
correspondent Geoff Thompson reports, this new challenge promises to be a focal point for John
Howard's meeting with the Indonesian President - now less than two weeks away.

GEOFF THOMPSON: Friday prayers at Abu Bakar Bashir's Islamic boarding school in Solo. The founder's
message to his faithful was not to worry about being labelled 'terrorists', as the United Nations
has labelled Bashir. "It's easy to accuse us of being terrorists", said Bashir. "They once called
our Prophet Mohammed a crazy man, while they only call us terrorists - that is easy," he said. But
it's not easy to get Indonesia to do something about it, as a letter from John Howard has asked
Indonesia's President to do. Today, Indonesia's Foreign Ministry said lawmakers are looking at
freezing Bashir's assets and restricting his movements.

DESRA PERCAYA, INDONESIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY: As member of United Nations, we do have obligations to
implement this resolution and I do believe that the Indonesian law enforcement official will do its
best to implement this resolution.

GEOFF THOMPSON: But that position's since been contradicted by Indonesia's Vice-President Jusuf
Kalla. Tonight, he compared Bashir's case to that of OJ Simpson, and said: "If Bashir is free, what
can we take from him? I think Howard understands the law. We can't seize the assets of a free man.
Bashir lives in his school complex which is owned by the religious community. The court can't look
at the facts outside the law," he went on to say. "The UN can say that Bashir is a terrorist, but
everything should be based not on perceptions, but facts under Indonesian law." Clear disagreement
in Indonesia, then, about how to deal with the newly free former leader of the terrorist outfit
Jemaah Islamiah. And a new disagreement for John Howard to confront in 10 days time.

KEVIN RUDD, SHADOW FOREIGN MINISTER: He must require and request the Indonesian President to ban
Jemaah Islamiah as an organisation. You can't pussyfoot around with this - it has to happen.

DESRA PERCAYA: We will not allow ourselves to be dictated by other countries. We have our national
sovereignty and we have also sovereign law in this country.

GEOFF THOMPSON: Mutual respect for legal sovereignty was to be a key point of agreement when the
two leaders meet on the 26th of this month. Geoff Thompson, Lateline.

(c) 2006 ABC