Judgement day for alleged Bali mastermind

An Indonesian court will Wednesday pass judgement on the Islamic militant accused of masterminding the bombing of two crowded Bali nightclubs, which killed 202 people last October.

Investigators believe Imam Samudra is a leading member of the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). The regional terror network is said to have staged the attack on Western holidaymakers to avenge perceived oppression of Muslims worldwide.

Samudra, who is accused of selecting the targets and assigning tasks to the bombers, will be the second suspect to hear a verdict on this resort island since Amrozi was sentenced to death on August 7.

Other key suspects who will hear verdicts in coming weeks are an alleged senior JI operative called Mukhlas, who is said to have authorised Samudra to go ahead with the attack, and Ali Imron, one of the bombmakers. Amrozi, Mukhlas and Imron are brothers.

Samudra, who says the death sentence sought by prosecutors would bring him closer to Allah, has throughout his three-month trial displayed a chilling indifference to his own fate and that of his victims.

The Afghanistan-trained Samudra has never admitted links to JI but has made no secret of the motives for the worst terror attack since September 11 2001 in the United States.

“This war is against America and the world understands that America is conceited, arrogant, savage and brutal,” he has said.

“The war against America and its allies is a war against evil, against tyranny and a war against terrorism and this is jihad [holy war] in the path of Allah.”

Prosecutors say that at one planning session, Samudra told his accomplices of a “big project, that is to declare war against the United States.” He allegedly said he planned several attacks in Bali and would pick the right places.

According to the indictment the attacks were to avenge the killing of Muslims by the US and its allies in Afghanistan, Palestine, Kashmir and Iraq.

During his trial Samudra has sought to play down his role, denying he was the one who picked the targets or gave orders to fellow bombers but admitting involvement in and responsibility for the blasts.

Samudra has expressed perfunctory regret at the killing of Muslims in Bali, describing it as a “side effect.” He told an injured Indonesian bartender he was sorry for his suffering—but hoped he would soon find a job that was not forbidden by Islam.

Samudra professed disgust at the behaviour of Western tourists in Bali.
“I saw bules [white people] doing vicious things, drinking and adulterous things there,” he told his trial.

Samudra, who graduated with top honours from his religious school in west Java, is seen as the modern face of militant Islam—a computer expert who was inspired by the internet to wage a holy war.

He spent two-and-a-half years in Afghanistan and six more in Malaysia in the 1990s, learning how to handle a number of weapons and how to use the internet.

Police have said Samudra’s burning desire to wage jihad in his home country arose from frequent electronic chats with fellow Muslims on the internet.

A statement claiming responsibility for the Bali bombings and pornographic photos of Western women were also found on his computer, according to the testimony of a computer expert. Samudra said these were planted.

On Wednesday the man who says he has wanted to die as a martyr since he was in junior high school will learn if his wish has been granted.—Sapa-AFP

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