BALI: An Indonesian Muslim militant dubbed the smiling bomber was sentenced to death yesterday for his part in last year’s deadly nightclub attacks on this resort island.
As the sentence was announced, a defiant Amrozi bin Norhasyam swivelled his chair to face victims as well as relatives of those killed, smiled broadly and made a thumbs-up sign with both hands after the judge read his sentence for plotting, organising and carrying out crimes of terror in relation to the Oct 12 nightclub blasts.
Australian victims hugged and kissed each other as the chief judge pronounced the verdict on Amrozi, a 40-year-old mechanic from central Java island. Many shouted with delight.
The verdict came two days after a car bomb killed 10 people at a luxury hotel in the capital, Jakarta, and coincided with concern that a shadowy South-East Asian network linked to al-Qaeda might be plotting further strikes.
“The panel of judges declares that the defendant Amrozi has been found guilty of criminal acts in carrying out terrorist crimes ... and the sentence on the defendant Amrozi is death,” chief judge I Made Karna told the court.
The bombings were “actions beyond the bounds of humanity and outside any religious teachings,” Karna said.
Hundreds of revellers, most of them foreign tourists, were packed into nightclubs in Bali’s Kuta beach district on a busy Saturday night when two blasts, the largest a massive car bomb, ripped through the area, killing 202 people.
Nearly half the number of dead were Australians enjoying holidays on an island famed for its flower-scented Hindu festivals and golden beaches. Several dozen Indonesians, including Balinese, also died.
Amrozi’s lawyer said his client would appeal on the grounds that his only contribution to the world’s worst act of terror since the Sept 11, 2001, attacks was to supply a van and chemicals for the car bomb that destroyed one of the two nightclubs.
“He’s sorry for those who were not the targets,” lawyer Wirawan Adnan told reporters. “He doesn’t have anything personal against the Australians, for instance. The targets were the Americans and the Jews.”
When Amrozi entered the court in the morning, dressed in a traditional loose white shirt, a cream-and-green skull cap and dark trousers, he punched his fist in the air and shouted, “Burn, burn the Jews.”
During his trial that began in early May, Amrozi had admitted to participating in the Bali blasts, and had told the court that “whites” deserved to die and said he welcomed the death sentence.
However, he said he did not belong to the Jemaah Islamiah Muslim network that police blame for the Bali bombings and are already linking to Tuesday’s Jakarta blast at the JW Marriott Hotel.
While victims celebrated the first verdict, Amrozi’s family sat in subdued silence in his home village of Lamongan on Java island.
“It is so unfair. While Amrozi stayed in prison, bombs are still exploding in Jakarta,” said his elder sister Tasmiah. “Everything has been orchestrated. I do not believe Amrozi is capable of making bombs that big.”
Police have already highlighted similarities between the Bali bombs and Tuesday’s attack, especially in the bomb composition. The Bali bombs were made mainly of TNT and potassium chlorate – a fertiliser compound.
Two of Amrozi’s brothers are also on trial for the Bali blasts.
But as the first suspect arrested, Amrozi has been a focal point of anger in Bali, a picture-postcard mix of surfing beaches, emerald rice fields and gentle people.
Amrozi’s giggling delight at the attacks, broadcast in a public police interrogation a month after the Bali blasts, shocked people across the island and around the world. He also gained notoriety by laughing at Indonesian witnesses.
Like other accused Bali bombers, Amrozi came under the sway of the teachings of Abubakar Ba’asyir, the alleged head of Jemaah Islamiah. Police have linked Abubakar to the Bali blasts but not named him as a suspect. – Reuters