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Bombers challenge execution method

Three convicted in the Bali nightclub blasts that killed 202 people petition for beheading instead of firing squad.

August 20, 2008|Paul Watson | Times Staff Writer

BANGKOK, THAILAND — The Islamist bombers who killed 202 people on the resort island of Bali in 2002 have exhausted appeals against their death sentences, but they are returning to court to argue that they should be beheaded rather than shot.

The Indonesian government wants to put the three men in front of a firing squad before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins next month. But their lawyers insist that would be inhumane.

The three bombers say they prefer to be beheaded, according to local reports. Their lawyers have suggested lethal injection.

Indonesia's Constitutional Court has agreed to hear a petition from Amrozi bin Nurhasyim, Imam Samudra and Ali Gufron, who were convicted for the backpack and van bomb attacks on Bali nightclubs.

Gufron, whose alias is Mukhlas, told interrogators that the terrorism plot was organized by Jemaah Islamiah, an Al Qaeda affiliate in Southeast Asia, and funded by Riduan Isamuddin, also known as Hambali, then the group's military commander. Hambali was arrested in 2003 in Thailand carrying a false Spanish passport. He was transferred to U.S. custody and is being held at the naval detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Amrozi was found guilty of buying the van and the potassium chlorate and other ingredients used to make the explosives that were packed into it.

The van exploded in a huge fireball that swept through two Bali nightspots, Paddy's Pub and the Sari Club, full of Australian, American and other foreign tourists, as well as Indonesians.

Imam Samudra was convicted as a lead organizer and Gufron of masterminding the attacks. In the court filing, lawyers from a group called the Muslim Defenders Team insisted that the bombers had "a constitutional right not to be tortured," and maintained that any delay between being shot and dying would amount to torture.

As an example, they offered the March 10 execution of Muhammad Tubagus Yusuf Maulana, a shaman who duped villagers out of thousands of dollars by convincing them they would reap riches by paying him. He poisoned eight people and buried their bodies.

Maulana died 10 minutes after being shot by a firing squad, even though one member is armed with a pistol to dispatch, with a point-blank shot to the head, anyone who survives the volley aimed at the heart.

"This means that the law admits that the prisoner [might] still be alive after he has already been shot, and certainly blood will be all over him, so that he will undergo a very deep torture before he finally dies by the final shot," the petition said.

Atty. Gen. Hendarman Supandji has said he wants the executions carried out before Ramadan, expected to begin Sept. 1, but the court's ruling isn't expected before then.

The bombers' legal team conceded that the attorney general has the authority to carry out the executions without waiting for the court's ruling, but argued that such action would disrespect the constitution.

In anticipation of an execution order, authorities have tightened security around Nusakambangan Island, where the men are imprisoned.

Samudra warned this year that Al Qaeda was "very likely" to retaliate if the bombers are executed, and some terrorism experts and Indonesian commentators maintain that using a firing squad could have the effect of making them martyrs.


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