Thu, 17 Jul 2003

Samudra admits role in Bali blasts, denies being mastermind

Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar, Bali

Imam Samudra told the Denpasar District Court on Wednesday that he was involved in the Bali terrorist bombing on Oct. 12, 2002, but denied he was the mastermind of the attack.

"I was not the planner for the bombing, but if you say that I was involved in that activity I could answer yes," Imam told the panel of judges led by I Wayan Sugawa.

One of Samudra's defense lawyers, Achmad Wirawan Adnan, said none of the 51 witnesses had said Imam was the mastermind of the bombings.

Samudra, whose real name is Abdul Aziz, admitted he had a moral obligation to plant the bombs, which claimed 202 lives, including 165 non-Indonesians from 19 countries.

Samudra said he learned to assemble bombs and weapons during a three-year jihad in Afghanistan, Thailand and the Philippines.

He boasted that he met Osama bin Laden, the United States' No. 1 terrorist suspect, when he joined Afghan Muslims in the fight against Russian occupation in 1990.

In regards to his relationship with Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, the alleged leader of the Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) terror group, Samudra said he did not know him well but met him in Malaysia and attended other religious gatherings where Ba'asyir spoke.

The father of two children said he did not know whether Ba'asyir was JI's leader.

The defendant told the court he only learned of the existence of JI after his arrest.

Samudra was reluctant to say whether or not he was sworn in as a JI member by Ba'asyir.

Defense lawyer Ahmad Wirawan Adnan, in an interview after the hearing, said he had lodged an objection stating Samudra's police statement presented to the court was illegitimate as his client was not represented by a lawyer.

The trial was adjourned until next Monday.

During the second trial of the day, the panel of judges trying bomb suspect Ali Gufron, alias Mukhlas, decided to allow the use of a live video link to hear the testimony of Wan Min Mat.

Wan Min, dubbed the JI treasurer, is in the custody of Malaysian police. The Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta rejected allowing Wan Min to appear in person.

Mukhlas' lawyer Qadhar Faisal lodged an appeal over the ruling. He argued that the use of such technology breached Indonesia law.

The trial will continue next Wednesday with testimony from a number of prosecution witnesses.