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Bali Bomb Planner Sentenced to Die

The double suicide attack killed 202 last fall. The execution will be by firing squad.

September 11, 2003|Richard C. Paddock | Times Staff Writer

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Imam Samudra, the Muslim extremist who espouses a bitter hatred for Americans and Jews, was sentenced to death Wednesday for coordinating last October's double suicide attack in Bali that killed 202 people.

The 33-year-old Samudra, who earlier said he would welcome execution because it would bring him closer to God, nervously stroked his wispy beard as a five-judge panel delivered the sentence.

He cried out "Allahu akbar!" -- God is great -- when the verdict was handed down. As police took him from the Bali courtroom, Samudra shouted, "Go to hell, you infidels!"

The Bali bombings, which killed mostly foreign tourists at a pair of nightclubs, were the world's deadliest terrorist strike since the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon two years ago today. Authorities say the attack was carried out by Jemaah Islamiah, the Southeast Asian terrorist network that is closely allied with Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network.

"The defendant had a dominant role in the explosion of the bombs," said Ifa Sudewi, one of the judges. He "is the intellectual actor behind the bomb explosions."

Samudra, born Abdul Azis bin Sihabudin, was recruited by Jemaah Islamiah after he traveled to Afghanistan for training in military camps run by followers of Bin Laden. The judges concluded that Samudra met Bin Laden during his time in Afghanistan.

Samudra is one of the most fanatical members of Jemaah Islamiah. He believed that the group should be more aggressive in attacking the United States and its allies.

Samudra is the second terrorist sentenced to die by firing squad for the Bali bombings. Last month, a panel handed down the same sentence against his co-conspirator Amrozi bin H. Nurhasyim, whose cheerful demeanor during his trial prompted some to dub him "the smiling bomber."

Indonesian authorities say the guilty verdicts demonstrate that the country's often criticized judicial system can function effectively in bringing accused terrorists to justice.

Last week, a Jakarta court convicted radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir of taking part in treason, including preaching holy war to Jemaah Islamiah members and inspiring a series of church bombings across Indonesia on Christmas Eve 2000. The judges in his case concluded there was not enough evidence to prove he was Jemaah Islamiah's leader and sentenced him to four years in prison, a punishment criticized as too lenient. Both the prosecution and defense have appealed.

Police believe that Jemaah Islamiah is responsible for dozens of bombings in Indonesia, including last month's suicide car bombing that killed 12 people and injured 147 outside the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, the capital. After the hotel bombing, Samudra said he hoped the attack had been carried out by Muslims and that the victims were Jews.

During his trial, he attempted to minimize his role in planning the Bali bombings but admitted that he had communicated with other plotters by e-mail and cell phone text message.

The judges concluded that Samudra recruited attackers, held meetings to plan the bombings, conducted surveillance of the targets and distributed funds to buy the explosives and vehicle used in the attack.

The first bomb was an explosive vest worn by a suicide attacker who triggered the device inside Paddy's Club. The second was a car bomb that exploded a few moments later across the street outside the crowded Sari Club, killing the driver of the vehicle and causing most of the fatalities.

The dead included 88 Australians, 34 Indonesians and seven Americans. An additional 325 people were hurt.

Samudra was arrested in November carrying a laptop computer he was said to have kept with him at all times. Police who examined the computer said they found documents showing he planned the bombing. Evidence from the computer also revealed that Samudra had posted a notice on a Web site claiming responsibility for the attack in the name of the "International Death Battalion." Police also said they found pornography that had been downloaded from the Internet, a charge Samudra vehemently denied.

Samudra is the first to be convicted of participating in both the Bali attack and the Christmas Eve bombings.

The judges concluded that Samudra participated in church bombings in Batam that were among two dozen synchronized attacks that killed 19 people across Indonesia that night.

Suspects arrested earlier for the church bombings had identified Samudra as one of the planners of the attacks and said he worked directly with a man known as Hambali, the Jemaah Islamiah operations chief and a top Al Qaeda operative, who was arrested last month in Thailand.

In his defense, Samudra said he was engaged in a holy war against America and that taking the lives of civilians was justified because the United States had killed Muslim babies through its embargo of Iraq and its bombing of Afghanistan.

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