Suspect says US is part of axis of terrorism

A key suspect in the Bali bombings, which killed 202 people, said on Thursday that “small-fry terrorists” only exist because of the crimes of terrorism’s big fishes—the US, British and Israeli leaders.

Mukhlas, who could face a firing squad if convicted of authorising last October’s blasts, used his defence plea to slam the West for everything from promoting a free-market economy to dropping the atomic bomb on Japan.

“Small fry terrorists are there because of the actions of the big fish terrorists,” Mukhlas told the court on the Indonesian resort island.

“These big fishes in terrorism are the ones who conducted extraordinary crimes against humanity,” he said, naming US President George Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

“They are the ones who made Muslims no longer go to the mosque, Christians never go to the church and Hindus never go to the temple, but rather choose to go to places which offer to satiate lust,” said Mukhlas, alias Ali Gufron.

“They made people no longer know anything, but lust.” In the nearest thing he has come to an apology, Mukhlas compared the bombers’ actions to a rhinoceros hunt in which other animals were also captured in the rhino traps.

“Let us leave this to Allah. The fact is that it was not intentional (killing the others),” Mukhlas said. His meaning was unclear, but the blasts killed 38 Indonesians as well as 164 foreigners.

Mukhlas is said to have been chief of jihad (holy war) operations in Indonesia for Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the al-Qaeda-linked group blamed for the Bali blasts and for a string of other bloody attacks.

JI’s motive in bombing two nightclubs packed with Western tourists was to avenge attacks against Muslims in Afghanistan and elsewhere, police have said.
Prosecutors say Mukhlas helped plan the attack, channelled funds for it and gave fellow suspect Imam Samudra the final go-ahead for the blasts. Mukhlas admits involvement but denies a direct role in the actual attack.

Mukhlas said in another trial that he knew Osama bin Laden well when they were both fighting in Afghanistan. He has named one of his children Osama.

“Whatever the punishment, I am not afraid,” he told reporters on Thursday, during a brief adjournment. Mukhlas, reading his defence plea in a calm tone, said the world’s “real terrorists” had dropped atomic bombs in the past “and it is not impossible that they will drop nuclear bombs in the future”.

He said they had laid waste to Afghanistan and Iraq and were ready to target other countries such as Syria and Jordan in their alleged quest to fight terrorism. Western leaders waged terrorism in various fields including religion, the economy, politics and the military, he said.

Religious terrorism was launched by sending missionaries under the guise of conducting humanitarian activities, leading to the “massive conversion of Muslims”. Economic terrorism involved supporting a free-market economy based on high bank interest rates, which killed off small businesses, Mukhlas added.

In the political and military sectors “they are able to do whatever is needed ... who is more cruel than they who have the heart to drop the atomic bomb?”

Prosecutors have sought death sentences for Mukhlas and Samudra, and the verdict is expected next Wednesday. Mukhlas’ trial was adjourned to September 11.

A brother of Mukhlas, Amrozi, has already been sentenced to death. Police have detained 34 Bali suspects, of whom 27 are on trial.

At a separate court, prosecutors sought a 20-year jail sentence for Hernianto, who allegedly allowed his home to be used for one of the planning meetings.—Sapa-AFP

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