Four suspected Islamic militants went on trial today for their alleged roles in last year’s suicide bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, attacks a prosecutor said were aimed at avenging Muslims’ deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If found guilty, they could face the death penalty under anti-terror laws.
Security was tight at the Denpasar trials, the first to be held over the triple bombings that killed 20 people and were blamed on Jemaah Islamiyah, an al-Qaida-linked south-east Asian terror group.
The group is blamed for several strikes since 2000 in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, including the 2002 nightclub blasts, also on Bali, which killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.
Prosecutor Olopan Nainggolan read from a video-taped statement of responsibility released soon after the blasts by the alleged ringleader, Noordin Top, to shed light on possible motives of the accused.
“We declare our enemies are those that help the American alliance kill Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Nainggolan quoted the statement as saying. “This was revenge for that.”
Facing trial are Dwi Widianto, 30; Mohammad Cholily, 28; Abdul Azis, 30; and Anif Solchanudin, 24.
All are accused of “carrying out or taking part” in the blasts at three crowded restaurants, including by making, supplying and transporting the explosives, and sheltering Noordin.
The indictments revealed that the plotters communicated using instant messaging over the internet, and that the three backpack bombs were built on Indonesia’s main island of Java before being taken to Bali, a popular tourist destination.
Prosecutors said Azis was tasked with distributing Top’s videotaped message of responsibility on a website. Solchanudin, meanwhile, had trained to be a fourth suicide bomber, but did not take part in the attacks for unknown reasons, they said.
“The accused underwent physical and mental training for being a suicide bomber,” the prosecutor said at Solchanudin’s trial. “He was told that if he spilled his own blood then the doors of heaven would be open for him and 70 members of his family.”
One suspect, Cholily, shouted “god is great” while being led from the court building, but the proceedings were orderly compared to other militant trials in Indonesia, which are often marred by rowdy supporters and angry outbursts from the accused.
Four Australians and one Japanese citizen died in the attacks at the three restaurants. The rest of the fatalities were Indonesians. At least 100 others were wounded in the blasts.
The trials took place in Bali’s main town, Denpasar, a short journey from the scene of the bombings in two of the island’s main tourist districts.
The men are being tried individually, in separate courtrooms.
Prosecutors read out their indictments against the men, who were not required to enter a plea or respond to the charges. The trials were adjourned and will continue next week, when defence lawyers will present their objections to the charges.
Courts in Indonesia have sentenced scores of suspected Jemaah Islamiyah operatives in recent years, handing down death sentences to three militants found guilty in the 2002 Bali blasts.
Despite the crackdown, analysts and foreign governments warn that the group is plotting more attacks in Indonesia, a secular, mostly moderate country with long-standing business and political ties to the United States and other Western nations.