Tue, May 13, 2003 - Page 1 News List

`Smiling terrorist' goes on trial for Bali bombing


The man dubbed the "smiling terrorist" went on trial yesterday for the bombings of two Bali nightclubs packed with tourists -- an act, Indonesian prosecutors said, was aimed at punishing Washington and its allies for their perceived oppression of the world's Muslims.

Amrozi bin Nurhasyim, a 40-year-old mechanic, is the first of 33 suspects accused in two consecutive bombings on the resort island on Oct. 12, last year.

At least 202 people were killed, most of them vacationers in what was the world's bloodiest terror attack since Sept. 11, 2001.

If convicted he and his co-accused could be executed under tough new anti-terrror laws.

Prosecutors alleged Amrozi bought bomb-making materials as well a minivan that was used as a massive car bomb.

A 33-page indictment said he was among plotters who "talked about the obligations of Muslims against other Muslims who have been oppressed and slaughtered by the US and its allies in Afghanistan, Palestine, Kashmir ... and Iraq."

It said Amrozi made his purchase and carried out some co-ordinating work on his home island of Java before the bombings. It did not say where Amrozi was on the night of the attack.

The opening hearing was televised nationally, and the trial is seen as a test of Indonesia's willingness to crack down on radical Islamic groups in the world's largest Muslim nation.

It could also shed light on the inner workings of Jemaah Islamiyah, the al-Qaeda-linked group believed responsible for the carnage on Bali as part of wider campaign to set up a Southeast Asian Islamic state.

Amrozi arrived at a makeshift and tightly guarded courthouse in a police convoy. He said nothing as he was hustled past hundreds of waiting reporters.

The court was packed with spectators, including survivors and relatives of the dead.

As the allegations were read out, hundreds of officers, including bomb squads and sharpshooters, stood guard outside. Roadblocks were set up and security force helicopters hovered above.

Amrozi is charged with helping to plan and carry out the bombings at the Sari Club and Paddy's Bar that caused "massive casualties," prosecutor Urip Tri Gunawan told the court.

Amrozi earned his infamous nickname in the Indonesian media when he grinned and giggled before reporters and news crews after his arrest last November.

In contrast yesterday, he exhibited none of that cockiness when he faced the five-judge panel.

Instead he gave single-word answers to questions from the judges, including his age, religion and whether he had a criminal record.

Police say they have a strong case -- including a confession from Amrozi -- as well as testimony from 102 witnesses and physical evidence, such as receipts for the explosives and the chassis of the minivan used in the attack.

However, defense attorneys argued that the prosecution case failed to prove Amrozi actively took part in the attack.

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