First suspect in Bali bombings faces death penalty
BALI, Indonesia -- The first suspect in last year's deadly nightclub bombings went on trial today, a case seen as a test of Indonesia's willingness to crack down on radical Islamic groups in the world's largest Muslim nation.
Amrozi bin Nurhasyim arrived at the court in a convoy of police cars. He said nothing as he entered the courtroom, surrounded by hundreds of armed officers and reporters.
Nurhazyim, a 40-year-old mechanic, was accused of buying the minivan and materials used to make the bombs that ripped through two crowded nightclubs in the heart of the island's tourist district on Oct. 12, 2002. Most of the 202 people killed were foreigners.
A prosecutor read the indictment that charges Amrozi with planning and carrying out an act of terrorism that caused "massive casualties." Dressed in brown shirt and slacks, Amrozi faced the three-judge panel and gave a series of single-word answers to questions from the judge about his age, religion and whether he had a criminal record.
The trial, which was being held amid tight security, was televised and was expected to last several months.
Amrozi and 32 other suspects could be sentenced to death if they are convicted under new anti-terror laws enacted after the near-simultaneous explosions -- the deadliest terrorist attacks since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks against the United States.
Australian Natalie Grezl Juniardi, whose husband, John, was among those killed at the Sari Club, said she hoped for ultimate justice.
"I think they should die," she said. "I just wish they would hurry up and do it."
The predominantly Hindu resort island of Bali had previously enjoyed a reputation for peace and tranquility, an exception in a vast archipelago nation wracked for years by ethnic and separatist violence.
The sites of the bombings are now two razed lots. Condolence wreaths have been placed there next to traditional Balinese offerings of rice and dried flowers.
The suspects allegedly worked for Jemaah Islamiyah, an al-Qaida linked regional Islamic group, which is headed by radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir and wants to establish an Islamic state in Southeast Asia. The group also has been blamed for thwarted attacks on the U.S. and Australian embassies in Singapore and other terrorist acts in the Philippines and in other parts of the region.
Several suspects reportedly have confessed to their role in the blasts and said they carried out the operation to avenge the deaths of Muslims elsewhere in the world.
In a public interrogation soon after his Nov. 5 arrest on Bali, 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.
Amrozi, along with two brothers who are also suspects in the bomb blasts, is from the central Indonesian village of Tenggulun. Relatives and friends have described Amrozi as a devout Muslim who prays regularly, hates Americans and includes Bashir among his friends.
The trials are seen by foreign governments as a test of the Indonesian court system's ability to deliver justice and the government's willingness to crack down further on radical Islamic groups that have been on the rise in Indonesia.
In the wake of Sept. 11, the nation of 210 million had been widely criticized for failing to act on repeated warnings that Islamic terrorists were infiltrating its porous borders and establishing a base of operations.
Foreign governments slapped travel warnings on Indonesia and tourist arrivals dropped by 80 percent after the attacks in Bali. The tourism industry began to slowly recover this year, but the Iraq war and SARS epidemic have put the brakes on a full rebound.
The Bali bombings served as a tragic wake-up call, forcing the country to reconsider its treatment of Islamic radicals and recognize that the country was filled with hundreds of people who were willing to use violence to take down its secular government.
Police -- who investigated the bombings along with their Australian counterparts -- say they have a strong case, including testimony from 102 witnesses and receipts for the explosive materials and the chassis of the minivan used in the attack.
"We are certain the charges will be proven," said Sudidyo, a spokesman for the Bali Prosecutor's Office.
Even though she lives in Bali, Grezl Juniardi said will not attend any of the trials. She says she has already been through enough, searching for her husband over six weeks and then burying his ashes at sea. Ten weeks ago, she gave birth to the couple's second child.
Still, she says she won't leave Bali and will keep the doors of her husband's surf shop open.
"Now I am left to do everything, earn money and take care of the children," she said. "It's really hard."