Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Death Row talk : No remorse for Bali bombs

Death Row talk : No remorse for Bali bombs

Nusakambangan, Indonesia (dpa) - As the clock ticks for three Muslim militants awaiting execution for the 2002 bombings on Bali island, they insisted in an exclusive interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that they had no regrets.

The condemned men - Ali Ghufron, alias Mukhlas, Imam Samudra and Amrozi - have been sitting on death row for four years and are being held under heavy security at Batu prison, an Alcatraz-style facility on Nusakambangan island off the south coast of central Java.

They were sentenced to death in 2003 for bombing two nightclubs on the resort island of Bali in October 2002, killing 202 people, mostly Australian and European tourists. The attacks were allegedly ordered by Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a regional terrorist network responsible for several bombings across Indonesia in recent years.

"I want young Muslims around the world to remember my good deeds," Ali Ghufron told dpa, surrounded by bulletproof glass in the prison's visitors hall, where the men were allowed a three-hour visit by dozens of family members and friends from East and West Java.

Ghufron also urged other Muslims to continue the group's violence against "infidels" - a call unlikely to find much public appeal in Indonesia where the bombers have found little sympathy outside their small fundamentalist movement that dates back to the early 1920s.

Indonesia may be the world's largest Muslim-majority nation with 190 million faithful, but all but a few thousand practise a mainstream version and are generally repulsed by terrorism and suicide bombings.

The three convicts, wearing traditional Muslim robes and skull caps, appeared to be happy and healthy as they entered the visitors' hall on Monday.

Amrozi - the younger brother of Ghufron - has grown a wispy beard since their trial during which he was dubbed the "smiling assassin" by the media for grinning incessantly. During this week's visiting hour at Batu prison, he again put on the biggest smile.

Among the visitors were the militants' wives and children, including Imam Samudra's mother Ummi Mbay Badriyah, 65, who praised and embraced her son. "He is a great kid, always a devoted Muslim," she told dpa while adjusting her head scarf.

The families' visit may well be their last before the three militants face the firing squad. The men rejected the official notifications of their death verdicts on January 2.

The Indonesian attorney-general's office allows a thirty-day period to seek presidential clemency, but the three have repeatedly said they would not appeal to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

"The president is human too, and my only help should come from God," Amrozi said. Likewise, the president indicated in a recent television interview that he would not grant such a move.

During their visit, the militants' families used their limited time to show their affection. Amrozi was enthusiastically kissing and hugging his daughter, while Imam Samudra gave a fiery sermon with his youngest son sitting on his lap. Ali Ghufron was also embracing his visiting friends and relatives.

"My only hope is that my children will become devoted Muslims and brave warriors," Ali Ghufron, a father of six, told dpa.

None of the bombers showed remorse over the attacks. Their only regret was that many Muslims also died in the blasts, they said.

When asking whether the three were afraid to die themselves, this correspondent was booed and shouted down by the visiting families.

"I am telling you, when they put us on death row, it sounds very beautiful to us! We are not afraid to die, and this angered the infidels. The angrier they are, the more rewards we get," Ali Ghufron said.

"They always asked us, why aren't we afraid to die? I'm telling you, death will come to us all eventually, but our death is different, as we will die as martyrs, we will be welcomed by our virgins in heaven," he said.

This time, the families and friends replied with calls of "Allahu Akbar" (God is great), while raising their fists.

According to Jakarta-based Sydney Jones, an expert on terrorism from the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, the death sentences are unlikely to be commuted or delayed.

"I believe they will be executed. Quite likely in February," she said. "I think they are worried about how their struggle will be carried out in the future."

Neither the date nor place of executions is announced in advance in Indonesia.

The Bali bombing shook the Indonesian government out of its denial that it had a home-grown terrorist problem with militants inspired by Osama bin Laden, the elusive leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist movement.

Within weeks after the Bali bombings - at the time the worst since the September 11 attacks in the US - Indonesia's parliament passed tough anti-terrorism legislation that was later used to convict the bombers.

JI is blamed for several simultaneous church bombings across Indonesia on Christmas Eve 2000; bombings on Bali in 2002 and 2005; the JW Marriott bombing in Jakarta in 2004 and an explosion at the entrance to the Australian Embassy in 2005.

Although the attacks shocked and angered mainstream Indonesian Muslims, the visiting friends and families at Batu prison Monday expressed adoration for the terrorists in their midst.

"You should know that all Muslims want to die as a martyr, that is the highest achievement," said Zacky Roby Cahyadi, a member of the Indonesian Muslims Youth Movement (GPI), a radical group based in Jakarta.

"Young Indonesians should idolize them instead of Western heroes like Superman or Batman," he added.

Meanwhile, the condemned militants insisted that they should be executed in the "Islamic" style of beheading rather than by firing squad - an execution they said they considered "Western".

"I am ready for death, but not using the evil law (of the Indonesian government)," Ali Ghufron said. "They should behead me because that is God's law, and God willing, I will die as a martyr," he added.

He said he believed the establishment of a great Islamic caliphate was very near, taking the place of Indonesia whose democracy was adapted from the West and therefore "evil".

Meanwhile, Amrozi said he admired Osama bin Laden for fighting the West and confronting US President George W Bush. He had been writing down his thoughts while in jail and wants to have them compiled into a book, he explained.

"My cell is always beautiful, it has never been boring to me," Amrozi told dpa - flashing his notorious smile.

14:59 Jan 09, 2008

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