Protesters Pelt Police as Muslim Cleric Is Removed From Hospital

Hundreds of yelling supporters of Abu Bakar Bashir threw stones Monday at police at they took the radical Muslim cleric from a hospital for questioning over his alleged links to a terrorist network blamed for the Bali bombings.

Bashir, who has been hospitalized for the last two weeks with respiratory problems, was escorted in a wheelchair to a waiting police motorcade. Angry protesters threw stones at the vehicles as they drove away to a nearby airport, from where Bashir will be flown to Jakarta.

About 300 armed officers took up positions around the hospital in Bashir's hometown of Solo, about 250 miles from Jakarta.

One policeman was slightly injured in the melee, but the violence appeared to be contained.

"The police promised that Bashir's family could go with him to Jakarta, but then just took him away," said his brother Umar Baradja. "The police are traitors."

Baradja said police forced their way into Bashir's hospital room — breaking down the door with their rifle butts. He said they dragged Bashir from his bed, placed him in a wheelchair and pushed him past a crowd of angry students.

Bashir was formally arrested Oct. 18 after he had checked into the Muhammadiyah Hospital. He is charged with ordering a string of church bombings in 2000 that killed 19 people and plotting the assassination of President Megawati Sukarnoputri. However, he is not a suspect in the Oct. 12 nightclub bombings in Bali that killed nearly 200 people.

Police have also said they also want to question Bashir about Jemaah Islamiyah, a regional Islamic group believed to be seeking a Muslim super-state in Southeast Asia and allied to the Al Qaeda terror network.

The group is suspected of involvement in the Bali attacks.

Radical Muslim leaders and students as young as 12 — many from Bashir's religious boarding school in Solo — gathered outside the hospital early Monday.

Members of the crowd pumped their fists as they chanted, "We are ready to die." They banners that read, "We are not terrorists" and "Our teacher will not flee."

Police had been at the hospital since midnight preparing to take Bashir into custody, following a meeting with local religious leaders in which officers rejected a proposal for him to return to his home in Solo first and later voluntarily submit for questioning.

Early Monday, Bashir's lawyer Ahmad Taufik said negotiations over the conditions of his client's questioning had reached a deadlock.

Bashir, who has denied any wrongdoing, said Sunday that he would submit to questioning but resist efforts to detain him.

Bashir's arrest occurred after Indonesian investigators returned from questioning Omar al-Faruq, an Al Qaeda operative whom they quietly took into custody earlier this year, then turned over to the United States.

Al-Faruq claims to have known Bashir well and implicated him in the church bombings and the assassination plot.