Sun, May 11, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Laughing Bali-bomb suspect set for trial as world looks on


A key Bali bombing suspect, whose laughter during interrogation and delight over the high death toll outraged victims' families, goes on trial tomorrow.

Amrozi bin Nurhasyim is the first of more than 30 suspected terrorists to face prosecution for last year's blasts.

His trial and those of other suspects -- soon to follow -- are seen as tests of Indonesia's commitment to crack down on Islamic extremism after the Oct. 12 nightclub bombings, which killed 202 people, mostly Western tourists.

Amrozi is charged with planning and carrying out an act of terrorism that caused "massive casualties," according to the indictment.

The indictment makes no mention of Jemaah Islamiyah -- a Southeast Asian Islamic network linked to al-Qaeda -- which the US and other governments claim carried out the attacks.

Fears also remain that senior players behind the blast -- many alleged to be members of Jemaah Islamiyah -- are still at large.

Indonesia has won praise since the blasts for working with US and Australian investigators to hunt down the suspects after earlier ignoring or failing to act on warnings by foreign governments that terrorists were targeting the country.

Amrozi's arrest on Nov. 5 in his home village of Tenggulun in central Java was the first major breakthrough in the investigation.

In a public interrogation soon after, Amrozi told Indonesian police he was "delighted" by the carnage of the blasts. Television footage of him laughing and smiling with officers during the interrogation sparked outrage in Australia, home to 88 of the victims.

Jemaah Islamiyah allegedly wants to create an Islamic state in Southeast Asia, and has been blamed for a string of bombings in Indonesia and a thwarted attack on the US Embassy and other Western targets in Singapore.

Singapore and Malaysia have arrested scores of suspected Jemaah Islamiyah activists over the last year, though none has yet been bought to trial.

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