Published on Wednesday, September 3, 2003 by Reuters
Indonesian VP: United States Is 'Terrorist King'
JAKARTA - Indonesian Vice President Hamzah Haz branded America the "terrorist king" Wednesday in remarks at odds with Jakarta's support for the war on terror.
"Actually, who is the terrorist, who is against human rights? The answer is the United States because they attacked Iraq. Moreover, it is the terrorist king, waging war," the official Antara news agency quoted Haz as saying.
The comments are likely to anger Washington and harm Jakarta's desire to get their hands on key terror suspect Hambali, who is in U.S. custody.
The conservative Muslim politician is known for strong statements that appear out of step with the government.
He once showed no hesitation visiting leading militants, including Abu Bakar Bashir, whom regional governments accuse of being spiritual leader of the Jemaah Islamiah militant network, blamed for attacks in Southeast Asia including the Bali blasts.
A court in Jakarta sentenced Bashir Tuesday to four years in jail for participating in acts of treason, but ruled prosecutors failed to prove he led Jemaah Islamiah.
Haz said that verdict should be respected, and told foreign governments to stop meddling in the affairs of the world's most populous Muslim nation by commenting on the decision.
When later asked by reporters to elaborate on his remark the United States was the "terrorist king," Haz said the country was carrying out international terror, Antara added.
Haz was not more specific.
The United States has praised Indonesia for its cooperation in the war on terror, particularly since last October's Bali bomb attacks, which killed 202 people.
Indonesia wants access to Hambali and would like him brought home for trial over a series of bombings, including Bali.
The radical Indonesian preacher, believed by some governments to be a senior al Qaeda operative and key figure in Jemaah Islamiah, was captured in Thailand last month. He is being held by the United States at a secret location.
The vice president said Indonesia was still being accused of being a terrorist's nest.
"Moreover, I am always perceived as protecting terrorists," he told the Islamic school leaders.
Indonesia's Muslim boarding schools, or pesantren, have come under the spotlight over charges a few are incubators for militants.
Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd