Jemaah Islamiah leader may face life sentence

The Muslim cleric and head of the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terrorist cell, accused of orchestrating the 2002 Oct 12 Bali bombings and last week’s Marriot hotel attack in Indonesia, smiled as prosecutors yesterday demanded a 15-year sentence for his role in the heinous assaults.

The Bali nightclub bombings killed 202, mostly foreign nationals, including 26 Britons, last October.

The Marriott Hotel car bomb in Jakarta last week killed 14 people and injured 150 more.

64-year old Abu Bakar Bashir is on trial in Jakarta for treason linked to his alleged leadership of JI.

Although not on trial for his role in the Bali or Marriot attacks, he is alleged to have approved the bombing of churches across Indonesia in December of 2000.

He is also suspected of involvement in a plot to assassinate Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, at the time of her vice presidency.

But Mr Bashir, appealing against his conviction, showed no sign of remorse at the trial, saying martyrdom would bring him closer to God.

He says Jemaah Islamiah does not exist.

At the trial yesterday, the court heard Mr Bashir desired the overthrow of Indonesia’s secular government in the world’s most populous Muslim nation, as a prelude the establishment of an Islamic state.

The trial, which began in April, now adjourns until August 21, when Bashir will give his final defence.

The verdict is expected in September.

Last week, Amrozi bin Nurhasyim, a key suspect in the Bali bombings, was convicted and sentenced to death.

Mr Amrozi, nicknamed the “smiling bomber” by the media, appeared nonchalant about the death sentence, saying, “I’ll be happy to die a martyr.”

Separately, Indonesia’s Tempo news magazine reported yesterday that JI had formed a special band of 10 to 15 potential “ready to die” suicide bombers, known as Laskar Khos or Special Militia.

The magazine said Ali Ghufron alias Mukhlas, accused of overall responsibility for the Bali bombing, belonged to one cell.