Sun, Nov 02, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Indonesia tense as Bali bombers face firing squad

‘MARTYRDOM’ The letter ordering the execution was issued on Friday night. Lawyers speculated the order would be carried out secretly to limit public exposure

AFP , CILACAP, INDONESIA

Three Islamist militants convicted over the Bali nightclub bombings that killed 202 people awaited execution yesterday as Indonesia stood guard against a feared extremist backlash.

A source at the Nusakambangan island prison off southern Java said Amrozi, 47, his brother Mukhlas, 48, and attack strategist Imam Samudra, 38, had been placed in isolation and the execution order had been delivered.

”The letter ordering the execution was submitted at 9pm on Friday,” the source said.

He did not say whether the letter gave a precise time for the executions.

Stunned residents at Amrozi’s and Mukhlas’s home village of Tenggulun, East Java, woke yesterday to find an “H” had been painted overnight between the maize fields, where a helicopter from Nusakambangan might land with the bodies.

Local TV also reported that checkpoints had been set up around Samudra’s home town of Serang, and that a grave had been prepared.

Security forces have been placed on high alert across the country as a precaution against an explosion of Islamist anger at the first executions to be carried out under Indonesia’s anti-terror law.

Sensitive areas like foreign embassies, tourist spots, shopping malls and ports were under close guard. On the mainly Hindu resort island of Bali, 3,500 police were on the streets, officials said.

The 2002 bombings targeted nightspots packed with Western tourists, killing more than 160 foreigners including 88 Australians. The bombers said they were retaliation for US-led aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq.

They were convicted and sentenced in 2003 under a new anti-terror law that was applied retroactively, leading anti-death penalty campaigners to question the legality of their executions.

All three have said they are eager to embrace “martyrdom” for their radical jihadist ideology, while launching a series of failed appeals and legal challenges that have delayed their date with the firing squad.

All executions in Indonesia are carried by firing squad, usually in the dead of night at undisclosed locations.

Defense lawyer Wirawan Adnan said the government was eager to limit coverage of the execution and it likely would not follow the usual practice of giving the families three days’ notice.

“I believe it’s going to happen unannounced. It’s just the way it is because they don’t want the public to know and they’re going to do it secretly,” he said.

Officials have not confirmed a date for the executions other than “early November.”

The bombers, members of the Jemaah Islamiyah regional terror network, have expressed no remorse for the carnage they unleashed six years ago.

In a string of media appearances and interviews the authorities have allowed them to conduct from prison, they have parroted al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s worldview of a militant Islam at war against an evil West.

Mukhlas claims to have met bin Laden in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and named his son Osama. They have promised retribution from God and their followers in the event of their execution.

In Tenggulun, the family of Mukhlas and Amrozi — a former mechanic known as the “smiling assassin” for his childish courtroom antics — remained unmoved.

“If they die because they are standing up for the religion they will be placed in paradise,” 52-year-old elder brother Muhammed Chozin said.

“The family isn’t angry with the brothers, we don’t want to meddle in their affairs. If they totally believe in their cause, then why not?”

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