Bali bombings 'planner' sentenced to death

The last of the four main suspects of the Bali bombings was today sentenced to death by firing squad. Ali Ghufron, otherwise known as Mukhlas, was “proven guilty of planning a terrorist action ... and we, the judges, sentence him to death,” Judge Cokorda Rai Suamba said.

Two other key Bali defendants, including Mukhlas’ brother Amrozi, have been handed death sentences.

A third suspect, Mukhlas’ other brother Ali Imron, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the devastating attacks, in which 202 people, mostly foreign tourists, were killed on October 12 2002. Twelve others have received prison terms ranging from seven to 16 years.

Today’s verdict is the latest indication of the Indonesian government’s commitment to tackling the threat of Islamist militancy.

Mukhlas reacted calmly to the ruling, telling the judges that he would appeal. “The verdict is not in line with Islamic teachings,” he said, before the judges closed the hearing.

During the trial, he admitted to being the operations chief of Jemaah Islamiyah, the extremist group linked to al-Qaida and accused over the Bali bombings.

He also admitted visiting Afghanistan during the 80s and fighting alongside Osama bin Laden.

Mukhlas was charged with overseeing planning meetings for the bombing of two nightclubs popular with western tourists. The attacks shattered Bali’s popular image as a tranquil island.

He has shown no remorse for the bombings and, like other defendants, used his court appearances to attack the US.

He branded the US president, George Bush, a terrorist, and said that the Bali bombings—the bloodiest terrorist atrocity since the September 11 2001 attacks on the US—were carried out to avenge the suffering of Muslims at the hands of the US and Israel.

Death sentences are rare in Indonesia, but are allowed under a new anti-terror law adopted in the wake of the Bali attack. They are carried out by a firing squad of 15 paramilitary policemen.

The verdict brought a mixed reaction from the small crowd in the courtroom, which was mostly made up of government officials and a handful of Australian survivors.

One person yelled: “You will not win” when the verdict was read out. Another screamed “dog” as Mukhlas was led away.

“Mukhlas and the other terrorists are the lowest form of life,” said Ashley Stenyer of Victoria, Australia, who was in one of the clubs when the bombing happened, and had travelled to Bali to attend the trial.

“But I don’t think he should have got the death penalty. I want to see all these defendants in jail for the rest of their lives,” he said.

Jan Laczynski, an Australian who was holding her nation’s flag with photos of all 88 Australian victims, said: “It isn’t often that Australians will get emotional and want the death penalty.

“But, in this case, it is justified because of the amount of people killed.”

The Bali attacks were reportedly part of a Jemaah Islamiyah campaign to destabilise Indonesia and pave the way for an Islamic state across southeast Asia.

The network’s alleged commander, Riduan Isamuddin Hambali, was captured in Thailand last month, and is now in US custody. Jemaah Islamiyah is also accused of directing the August car bombing of a US-owned hotel in Jakarta, in which 12 people were killed. At least a dozen suspects have been arrested, but none has been formally charged.

The group’s alleged spiritual leader, Abu Bakar Bashir, was last month sentenced to four years in prison for sedition, but was acquitted of heading Jemaah Islamiyah.

  • A court in the South Sulawesi capital of Makassar sentenced a man to seven years for his involvement in the December bombing of a McDonald’s restaurant and car showroom in the city. Three people died, and 15 others were injured.

    Khairul, who uses only one name, was the third of 13 suspects to be convicted in connection with the attacks, many of them Islamist militants with links to the Bali bombers. - Guardian Unlimited Â

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