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November 9 2008 | INDONESIA


Indonesia executes Bali bombers

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The Jakarta Post

Indonesia executes Bali bombers


Indonesia executed three Islamic militants by firing squad for the 2002 Bali bombings that left 202 people dead, many of them foreign tourists, authorities said Sunday as they braced for possible revenge attacks by hard-liners.

The bodies of Imam Samudra, 38, and brothers Amrozi Nurhasyim, 47, and Ali Ghufron, 48, were brought by helicopter from the prison island of Nusakambangan to their villages in east and west Java, ending years of uncertainty about their fate.

The executions, sensitive for both political and security reasons, had been postponed many times, often without explanation, frustrating relatives of victims and enabling the bombers to rally supporters from behind bars.

Thousands of sympathizers turned out in the towns of Tenggulun and Serang early Sunday to welcome home their bodies. Some radicals lined the streets, chanting "God is great!" and calling the men martyrs as helicopters carrying the caskets touched down.

Dozens clashed briefly with police on a small road in Tenggulun, home to the two brothers, slightly injuring one officer, but there were no other reports of violence.

The Oct. 12, 2002 attacks - allegedly funded by al-Qaida and carried out by members of the Southeast Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiyah - were the first of several suicide bombings that thrust the world's most populous Muslim nation onto the front lines in the war on terror.

The three never expressed remorse, saying the bombings were meant to punish the U.S. and its Western allies for alleged atrocities in Afghanistan and elsewhere. They even taunted relatives of victims - 88 of whom were Australian - at their trials five years ago and regularly gloated to reporters.

In recent months, the men had publicly expressed hope their executions would trigger revenge attacks in Indonesia, a nation of 235 million people, where support for the bombers is limited to a small minority.

Security forces were placed on high alert ahead of the midnight executions with extra police deployed in their hometowns and at embassies, shopping malls and offices in the capital, Jakarta.

"Everyone should be extra vigilant," said Ken Conboy, a Jakarta-based security expert, anticipating demonstrations, bomb hoaxes and shows of solidarity at the men's funerals rather than fresh attcks.

But even peaceful rallies "can quickly spin out of control," he noted.

The U.S. and Australian embassies, which received bomb threats in recent days, were among those warning their citizens to be careful.

Though the three Bali bombers said they were happy to die martyrs, their lawyers fough for years to stop their executions, arguing they were convicted retroactively on anti-terrorism laws.

They also opposed death by firing squad, saying their clients preferred beheadings, because they were more "humane."

Relatives of victims said Sunday it was a day of mixed emotions.

Australian Bian Deegan, who lost his son Josh in the bombings, staunchly opposes capital punishment and worries about revenge attacks in the wake of the executions.

Though Jemaah Islamiyah has been severely weakened by hundreds of arrests, with the last attack occurring more than three years ago, Deegan noted "there' no shortage around the world of persons that are prepared to commit suicide to achieve a result."

But Maria Kotronakis. who lost two sisters and two cousins, told CNN she was relieved to see justice served at last.

"We're very happy ... we've waited a very long time for this," she said, adding thatthe bombers had "lost their rights to anything that's human."

The executions were considered politically sensitive, with general elections less than six months away. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono risks losing the votes of conservative Muslims. The government is also worried about a security backlash

The three men were among more than 30 people convicted in connection with the twin nightclub blasts.

Jemaah Islamiyah was blamed for at least three other suicide bombings in Indonesia. But the 2002 attack was by far the bloodiest.

One of the attackers walked into Paddy's nightclub on a busy Saturay night, setting off a bomb attached to his vest. Minutes later, a larger car bomb exploded outside the nearby Sari Club.

The dead included 38 Indonesians, 28 Britons and eight Americans - most revelers fleeing the first blast.

Dozens of victims and tourists gathered at "ground zero" of the bombings Sunday to pray and pay their respects to the dead.


BBC News

Relatives deplore Bali executions

From left to right: Ali Ghufron, Imam Samudra and Amrozi Nurhasyim during the Eid al-Fitr prayer at Batu prison on 1 October 2008

The bombers said they were keen to be "martyrs"

Relatives of victims of the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings have said justice was not done by the execution of three men for the crime.

Susanna Miller, whose brother Dan was killed in the attacks, said the execution transformed the men into martyrs, making "a mockery of justice."

Imam Samudra, Amrozi Nurhasyim and Ali Ghufron (Mukhlas) were shot at 0015 (1715 GMT on Saturday), officials said.

They were convicted of planning attacks on nightclubs in the resort of Kuta.

'Mockery of justice'

Ms Miller, who is a member of the Bali Bombings Victims' Group, said: "Justice is supposed to have two strands to it. One is to pay recompense for the crime committed and the other is a deterrent.

"If you undermine the deterrent by effectively encouraging, allowing these people to be seen as martyrs and encouraging the Islamist cause, then no it makes a mockery of justice."

She told the BBC: "Can we be clear? They didn't kill my brother... They were secondary to the bombing plot and the most important person in relation to the plot is currently held in Guantanamo Bay."

The executions of the Bali bombers may create martyrs whose memory risks increasing support and recruitment to their cause

Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International

Indonesia executes Bali bombers

Ms Miller pointed out that the only member of the IRA commonly remembered in England is Bobby Sands, who killed himself by hunger strike.

Tobias Ellwood MP, who lost his brother Jonathan, 37, in the attacks, said there were still questions that needed to be answered before he could put the memory of his brother to rest.

Firstly, he said. there had been no explanation as to why Hambali, the attacks' mastermind, who is currently held at Guantanamo Bay, had not been brought to trial.

Secondly, it was unacceptable that no British citizens affected by the attack had been paid compensation by the UK government, despite the fact that compensation was given to victims of the 7/7 attacks in London - he went on.

'Horrific atrocity'

And thirdly, Mr Ellwood said that despite MI5 intelligence ahead of the bombings, the threat level for Bali was not changed.

"The threat level to British citizens should have been raised to 'high'... Failure to update the threat level meant many travel plans, including my brother's, went unchanged," Mr Ellwood said.

Amnesty International condemned the executions.

Sam Zarifi, the organisation's Asia-Pacific director, said: "The Bali Bombers perpetrated a horrific atrocity but to continue to cycle of violence through state sanctioned killings is to answer the violation of human rights with further violations."

He said Amnesty recognised the need to bring criminals to justice, but that it was not clear that capital punishment was an effective deterrent.

Reprisal concerns

Mr Zarifi added that in fact: "The executions of the Bali bombers may create martyrs whose memory risks increasing support and recruitment to their cause."

The three men were shot at the island prison of Nusakambangan, officials said.

The BBC's Lucy Williamson, in Cilacap, near the prison, says the execution took place in the darkness surrounded by forest and with a handful of witnesses.

Later, a spokesman for the attorney-general's office confirmed that the three men had been shot.

Security forces are on alert across the country amid fears of reprisal attacks.

But according to our correspondent, the deaths will not evoke much sympathy in Indonesia, where most people supported the sentence and believed the executions should have been carried out much sooner.

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