Tue, Jul 15, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Bali bombing case suspect says blast has `positive' side

AFP , DENPASAR, INDONESIA

A key suspect in the Bali bombings which killed scores of Western holidaymakers said yesterday the attack had "positive aspects" because it turned people back to religion.

Amrozi, presenting a defense plea at his trial, said the blasts which ripped through two crowded nightspots and killed 202 people also prevented the economy of the resort island from falling into the hands of foreigners.

"With this incident, God willing, many people realize that they had forgotten God and neglected their worship and avoided places of worship so that mosques became empty, churches became deserted, monasteries and temples also became empty without occupants or visitors," he said.

Meanwhile, "places of sins" were all packed, he said.

Amrozi, a village mechanic, is accused of buying one tonne of chemicals to help make the bomb which blew the Sari Club to bits, along with the van which carried the bomb.

Amrozi, reading out his plea, said the blasts on Oct. 23 last year had prevented the economy of the island and the rest of Indonesia from being taken over by foreigners.

"I am also not among those who are against tourists, and tourist arrivals should even be promoted but on condition that they follow disciplines," he said.

"They, as guests, should follow our rules and not us follow their rules just because of money."

The blasts dealt a crippling blow to the island's tourist-oriented economy. Foreign tourists arrivals fell by 42 percent in the first five months of this year compared to the same period last year.

During his trial last month Amrozi described foreign tourists as a threat to Indonesia's future and said violence is the only language they understand.

At that time he described the Sari Club and nearby Paddy's Bar as "dens of vices" set up as part of a US and Jewish plan to destroy religions.

Amrozi said last month he only felt remorse for the 38 Indonesians who died.

"For the foreigners, I said, you have learned your lesson," he said.

Police say Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) staged the Bali blasts to avenge perceived injustices to Muslims worldwide.

JI is believed to be linked to al-Qaeda. A witness in a separate trial said last week the Bali bombers were inspired by an edict issued by Osama bin Laden.

"As far as I know, none are members of any organization ... to my knowledge, they are not linked to any organization or congregation anywhere and there was no one giving them orders," he said.

He added, "I myself only knew about JI during my interrogation by the police and prior to that I never knew or heard about it."

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