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Sentence is death in Bali bombings

Indonesia hands down verdict in taking on militants

By Justin Hale
Associated Press

October 3, 2003

BALI, Indonesia -- The last of four main suspects in the deadly nightclub bombings on Indonesia's Bali island was convicted Thursday and sentenced to death by firing squad.

The verdict is the latest sign that Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation, is serious about confronting Islamic militancy. Death sentences are rare in Indonesia but are allowed under an anti-terrorism law adopted after last year's bombings on Bali that killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.

Ali Ghufron, an Afghan-trained militant who bragged of his friendship with Osama bin Laden, was "proven guilty of planning a terrorist action ... and we the judges sentence him to death," Judge Cokorda Rai Suamba said.

Two other key defendants, Samudra and Amrozi bin Nurhasyhim, have received death sentences and a third, Ali Imron, was given life in prison for the attacks on Oct. 12, 2002.

Twelve other defendants have received prison terms ranging from 7 to 16 years.

Ghufron, whose alias is Mukhlas, reacted calmly to the ruling and said he would appeal.

"The verdict is not in line with Islamic teachings," he said.

During the trial, Ghufron admitted to being the operations chief of Jemaah Islamiyah, an Al Qaeda-linked group accused in the Bali bombings. He also has said he traveled to Afghanistan in the 1980s and fought alongside bin Laden.

Ghufron was charged with overseeing the plot to bomb the two nightclubs and the U.S. consulate, attacks that shattered the image of Bali as a tranquil island.

He, like the other suspects, used court appearances to rage against the United States. He called President Bush a terrorist and said the Bali blasts were carried out to avenge the suffering of Muslims at the hands of America and Israel.

The defendants have provided authorities with a detailed portrait of Jemaah Islamiyah, a group that operates as independent cells.

The organization's alleged commander, Hambali, was captured last month in Thailand and is in U.S. custody. Its alleged spiritual leader, Abu Bakar Bashir, was sentenced last month to 4 years for sedition but was acquitted of heading Jemaah Islamiyah.

Jemaah Islamiyah also is accused of directing the Aug. 5 car bombing of a U.S.-owned hotel in Jakarta. The attack killed 12 people. At least a dozen suspects have been arrested, but none has been formally charged.

Copyright 2003, Chicago Tribune