Published September 10, 2003
BALI, Indonesia – Judges sentenced an Islamic militant to death by firing squad after finding him guilty Wednesday of being the "intellectual mastermind" behind last year's deadly nightclub bombings on the resort island of Bali (search).
"Imam Samudra has been clearly proven to have planned a terrorist act, and we hand down the sentence of death," Judge Wayan Sugawa (search) said.
Samudra shouted "God is Great!" after the verdict was read, while several people in courtroom cheered.
"Go to hell, you infidels!" he shouted in English, pumping his fist into the air as he was led out of court.
Samudra, 33, an Afghan-trained fighter, has said he wants to die as a martyr. But during the trial he denied the charges that he had commanded the group of militants who carried out the Oct. 12 attack that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.
It was the single deadliest terrorist atrocity since the Sept. 11, 2001 (search), attacks in the United States.
Judge Ifa Sudewi said that "the defendant (played) a dominant role in the Bali bomb blasts and ... is the intellectual mastermind behind the Bali bomb explosions."
Prosecutors said Samudra selected the recruits and helped fund the attacks. His goal, they said, was to avenge the treatment of Muslims at the hands of the United States and Israel.
Almost half of the victims of the twin blasts were Australian tourists, while seven were from the United States.
Samudra's lawyers immediately said they would appeal the sentence.
"There was no justice in this case. He should not have gotten the death sentence," said attorney Qadar Faisal.
Death sentences in Indonesia are rare, but are allowed under a new anti-terror law adopted in the wake of the Bali attack. They are carried out by a firing squad of 15 paramilitary policemen.
Reading through the summation of the trial before the verdict, Sudewi said Samudra had described the blasts as "revenge ... against the tyranny of America."
She said Samudra had met Usama bin Laden during the three years he spent in Afghanistan.
Samudra is the second of 30 suspects arrested after the Bali attacks to be sentenced to death. Last month, his coconspirator Amrozi bin Nurhasyim also received the death sentence.
The defendant sat still during the proceedings, running his fingers through his goatee.
Police say Samudra initially confessed to his role in the attacks and took pride in killing foreign tourists. But he retracted his statement in court, saying instead that he went to Bali last October to open an Internet cafe.
Prosecutors also charged Samudra with complicity in the bombing of four churches on Batam island near Singapore on Christmas Eve, 2000.
A handful of foreign observers watched the court proceedings, including friends and relatives of victims caught in the twin blasts.
"I feel very happy that justice is being done," said Jan Laczynski, an Australian who lost several friends to the bombers.
The Bali attack is blamed on the Al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah network said to operate throughout Southeast Asia. The network's commander, Riduan Isamuddin Hambali, was captured last month in Thailand and handed over to U.S. custody.
Jemaah Islamiyah also is accused of directing last month's car bombing of a U.S.-owned hotel in Jakarta that killed 12 people. Several suspects have been arrested in connection with the blast, but none have been formally charged.
A court in Jakarta last week sentenced Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir -- who Western governments say is one of the group's founders and its spiritual leader -- to four years imprisonment for sedition, but acquitted him of heading Jemaah Islamiyah, which is said to be campaigning for a Muslim superstate in Southeast Asia.
Bashir is appealing the sentence and denies the existence of Jemaah Islamiyah. He says the charges against him were fabricated by the United States.