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Gallows cloud on Bashir

Jakarta/Bali, Oct. 21 (Reuters): A Muslim cleric detained as Indonesia moves to crack down on terrorism after bomb blasts in Bali faced allegations today, including a plot to assassinate President Megawati Sukarnoputri, that could bring him execution.

Achmad Michdan, a lawyer for Abu Bakar Bashir, said the alleged plot, when Megawati was Vice-President, was listed in a police letter, handed to Bashir in hospital, which also said he was involved in several Jakarta bombings over the last few years.

The Indonesian government detained the high-profile Bashir on Friday as it announced new anti-terror regulations following the October 12 Bali explosions that killed almost 200 people.

Neighbouring countries have long pegged Bashir as a leader of the al Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiah, which they hold responsible for planned terrorist acts throughout the region, and pressed Jakarta to arrest him.

The letter to Bashir, which does not mention the Bali bombings, said he would also be questioned about the illegal possession of firearms and explosives by alleged associates.

If he were tried and convicted, Bashir, who denies any involvement in terrorism, would face the death penalty on each crime. The move against Bashir and new anti-terrorism decrees have prompted fears of a backlash from Muslims in Indonesia where even moderates fear the US-led war on terror could be used as an attack on Islam.

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