Wednesday April 19, 2006
Bali bomber says he was tortured into implicating alleged Southeast Asian terror chief
CILACAP, Indonesia (AP): A militant awaiting execution for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings testified Wednesday that he was tortured into implicating alleged terror leader Abu Bakar Bashir in the attacks.
Amrozi Nurhasyim made the remarks during an appeal into Bashir's 2 1/2 year sentence for conspiring in the blasts, which killed 202 people, most of them foreign vacationers, and were blamed on the al-Qaida linked Jemaah Islamiyah network.
"We were all tortured to say we were ordered by Abu Bakar Bashir (to carry out the blasts),'' Nurhasyim told the court. "But this old man has no links (with terrorism).'' He did not elaborate on the torture allegations.
Police have denied mistreating any of the more than 30 militants arrested over the attacks.
Nurhasyim, nicknamed the "Smiling Bomber'' for his frequent gloating over the blasts, arrived at the court after traveling by boat from a nearby prison island to shouts of "God is Great'' by around 100 Muslim hardliners. More than 400 police officers were stationed at the building in Cilacap, on Java Island's southern coast.
He smiled at reporters, and jokingly asked the judges if he could have a cup of coffee.
Bashir, who was not in court, is scheduled for release from prison in June this year after his sentence is due to end, and his lawyers have acknowledged that it is unlikely that judges will rule in the appeal before that date.
Still, a victory for Bashir, who the United States and Australia maintain is a key leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, would have symbolic value to hardliners in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation.
His lawyers plan to continue with the appeal even after Bashir's release in June.
At Bashir's original trial, prosecutors said Nurhasyim visited Bashir three months before the attacks to ask for his blessing _ something which they said the 70-year-old cleric allegedly gave. Prosecutors cited a confession by Nurhasyim that he allegedly made to police.
Nurhasyim said he met Bashir before the trial at a boarding school the cleric used to run, but that they did not discuss his plans to bomb the nightclubs on Bali Island.