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First JW Marriott bomb suspect goes on trial in Jakarta

M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

An Indonesian militant who said he wanted to kill Americans went on trial for last year's Marriott bombing at the South Jakarta District Court on Monday and could be sent to the firing squad if convicted.

Defendant Mohammad Rais, alias Edi Endra, 29, was charged under Law No. 15/2003 on terrorism for organizing acts of terror that had caused mass fear and destruction to vital objects.

The Marriott bombing on Aug. 5, 2003, killed 12 people -- mostly Indonesians, including six drivers and a Dutch banker -- and injured 147 others.

"I regret that there were Muslims among the victims. They were not my targets. My targets were Americans," Rais said after the hearing was adjourned until Feb. 4 by presiding judge Johanes E. Binti to hear his defense plea.

"I am ready to be held responsible because I was involved."

When the defendant entered the courtroom, dozens of his supporters broke into a deafening chant of Allahu Akbar (Allah is great).

Prosecutors, who took turns reading the 52-page indictment, said that Rais -- an accomplice of the two most wanted suspects in the Marriott blast, Azahari bin Husin and Noordin Mohd. Top -- introduced Asmar Latin Sani, the Marriott suicide bomber, to the two Malaysians before they executed the attack.

The defendant asked Asmar to take part in a "jihad mission", including sacrificing his life "as the Palestinians are doing".

"The defendant, along with Azahari and Noordin, from September 2002 to January 2003, plotted and arranged for other people to carry out an act of terror," state prosecutor Andi Herman told the court.

Azahari -- believed to be the master bombmaker for several attacks attributed to the UN-listed Jamaah Islamiyah terrorist group -- asked Asmar to prepare a vest with pockets for explosives to be used for a suicide bombing mission. Asmar died instantly when the van he drove blew up in the hotel's driveway.

The indictment said that Rais helped Azahari and Noordin collect explosive material -- three kilograms of TNT and detonators -- that would be transported to Jakarta to blow up four possible targets.

Rais was also alleged to have delivered a message from al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Ba'ashir in 2001, after he completed his religious training in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ba'ashir is currently serving three years at the Cipinang penitentiary, East Jakarta, after being found guilty of immigration offenses and forging documents, but acquitted of all terror-related charges.

Rais, a graduate of the Al-Mukmin Islamic boarding school in Ngruki, Central Java, which was co-founded by Ba'ashir, is the second defendant to be tried in the Marriott bombing case.

The first was Sardona Siliwangi who was tried at the Bengkulu District Court. Prosecutors have accused him of violating the antiterrorism law by possessing explosives and called last Friday for a nine-year prison term for him.

Primary suspects in the bombing, Azahari and Noordin, are still on the run after they have deftly been able to elude police attempts to capture them over the last several months.

The two were also alleged to have substantial roles in the Bali blast on Oct. 12, 2002, which killed 202 people, mostly foreign holidaymakers.

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