Wed, May 10, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Trial of four Bali bomb suspects begins

SUICIDE ATTACKS The indictment against the four men says they communicated through instant messaging and transported bombs that they'd built in Java to Bali

AP , DENPASAR, INDONESIA

Four suspected Islamic militants went on trial yesterday for their alleged role in last year's suicide bombings on 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 trials, the first to be held over the triple bombings that killed 20 people and were blamed on Jemaah Islamiyah, an al-Qaeda-linked Southeast Asian terror group.

The group is blamed for several strikes since 2000 in Indonesia, including the 2002 nightclub blasts also on Bali that killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.

Prosecutor Olopan Nainggolan read from a videotaped 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.

Support team?

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.

Prosecutors said that Azis was tasked with distributing Top's videotaped message of responsibility on a Web site. 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 with 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.

Adjourned

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 defense lawyers will present their objections to the charges.

Courts in Indonesia have sentenced scores of suspected Jemaah Islamiyah operatives in recent years, including handing down death sentences to three militants found guilty in the Bali bombing in 2002.

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