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Philippines frees terror suspects

Philippines special action forces escort Dwirkana (2nd R) and Linrung (C-back w/white shirt) during an earlier court appearance
Philippines special action forces escort Dwirkana (2nd R) and Linrung (C-back w/white shirt) during an earlier court appearance  

By Rufi Vigilar

MANILA, Philippines (CNN) -- Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered the immediate release of two of three suspected Indonesian terrorists, charged for carrying bomb-making implements.

The suspects, arrested at Manila's international airport last month, have been linked to the Indonesian Islamic group Jemaah Islamiya which is suspected of supporting terrorist cells of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network in Southeast Asia.

Acting Press Secretary Silvester Afable said the order responds to a request by Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, Indonesian Prime Minister Hassan Wirayuda, and the Indonesian Parliament.

"It was a decision [in] the interest of diplomatic goodwill," Afable said.

Indonesian embassy spokesman Triyogo Jatmiko told CNN, "The Philippine National Police earlier recommended their release for lack of evidence."

The explosives charges against the three suspects -- Tamsil Linrung, Agus Dwirkana and Abdul Jamal Balfas -- were premature because they were "filed without a preliminary investigation," Jatmiko said.

Linrung and Balfas will be released but Dwirkana will undergo further investigation.

Allegations of political harassment surfaced after the Indonesians were arrested.

Linrung, in particular, is linked to the National Mandate Party of Indonesian National Assembly (MPR) Speaker Amien Rais, who analysts say has presidential ambitions.

Longer jail term

Al-Ghozi, an alleged bomber for the al-Qaeda network, listens as his conviction is read out  

President Arroyo's order was issued the same day a Philippine court sentenced Indonesian "bomb expert" Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi to eight to 12 more years in jail for holding two fake passports.

Only a day earlier, another court sentenced him to a jail term of 10 to 12 years for illegal possession of explosives.

Al-Ghozi, who has been linked to the Islamic group Jemaah Islamiya, pleaded guilty to the passports and explosives charges.

The Indonesian government is unlikely to appeal the cases against al-Ghozi, Jatmiko said.

Al-Ghozi's lawyers "recommended a guilty plea as the best option for him," Jatmiko said.

"Our duty now is to see to it that he gets fair treatment," Jatmiko said. "We respect due process of Philippine law."

Singapore plot

Philippine authorities arrested al-Ghozi in Manila in January and later found a ton of explosives in a house he rented in southern General Santos City.

Al-Ghozi's arrest came only days after more than a dozen suspected terrorists also linked to al Qaeda were arrested in Singapore for an alleged plot to bomb American and other Western installations in the city state.

The explosives were reportedly to be shipped to Singapore via Indonesia for the terrorist attacks.

Al-Ghozi has also admitted to taking part in the December 30, 2000 bomb blast on board a Manila commuter train, which killed more than a dozen people and injured scores of others.

An ongoing regional crackdown on al Qaeda terrorist cells supports the U.S.-led global campaign against terrorism, following the September 11 suicide attacks on New York and Washington.




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