Fri, 22 Aug 2003

Imron rues straying from Islam

Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar, Bali

A key suspect in the Bali bombings said on Thursday the bomb attack on Bali last year was the result of a misinterpretation of jihad.

Ali Imron, standing trial for his involvement in the bombings, told the Denpasar District Court he had made a grave mistake in executing the terror attacks, which claimed 202 lives, mostly foreigners, and injured over 300 others.

Expressing his remorse, Imron said the bombing "has really broken my heart".

"Why did I, an ustadz (religious teacher), do something like that? How could I just obey and not think?" he said. He explained that he had participated in the bombings following Ali Gufron, alias Mukhlas, another defendant, whom he looked up to as a respected elder brother.

"My actions not only victimized Islam, but also made non- Muslims confused about Islam," he said. "I say this frankly, my action was a mistake and none of my students should follow in my footsteps."

He denounced the violent interpretation of jihad he had previously believed.

This denouncement, he claimed, had created a rift between him and his elder brothers and fellow defendants, Amrozi and Mukhlas, which prompted him to ask for a separate cell.

Imron, Amrozi and Mukhlas are being held at the same detention center.

"I believe that Ali Gufron's belief and interpretation of jihad is wrong. I pity him. Yet, he got angry with me, so I asked for a separate cell," he said.

When the judges asked why he took part in the bombings if he was not sure the attack was in accordance with jihad, he replied, "That's my fault."

Imron admitted to playing a major role in selecting the Sari Club and Paddy's as targets. Together with another defendant, Abdul Aziz, alias Imam Samudra, he made at least three separate surveillance trips for potential targets. At one point, Imron said he spent three hours observing the flow of Western tourists visiting the two nightspots.

"Later, Imam Samudra asked my opinion as to the most crowded places that would make the perfect targets. I told him that Sari and Paddy's were the places," Imron said.

The trial was also attended by dozens of members of Jakarta- based Islamic group Salamullah. Dressed in traditional white robes, the members, led by Lia Aminudin, said they carried a message from the Archangel Gabriel to the defendants and handed the message to the defendants' lawyers.

The message, with the heading Ruhul Kudus, or The Holy Spirit, said the angel branded the defendants traitors of the true spirit of Islam and that none of them could claim to be the defenders of Islam. The defendants would all end up in hell, the angel foretold.