Tue, 10 Jun 2003

Six McDonald's bombing suspects go on trial in Makassar

Andi Hajramurni, The Jakarta Post, Makassar, South Sulawesi

Six suspects in the Dec. 5, 2002 Makassar bombing went on trial on Monday for their alleged involvement in the bombings that killed three people and injured 15 others.

The six: Masnur bin Abdul Latif, Suriadi, Ilham Riadi, Anton bin Labbase, Khaerul and Muhammad Tang alias Itang stood trial in separate sessions at the Makassar Court.

Anton and Ilham, tried by a panel of judges presided over by Andi Haedar, were charged with planning the bombings at the McDonald's outlet and a car dealership NV Hadji Kalla owned by Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Jusuf Kalla, along with key suspect Agung Abdul Hamid, still at large, in the city on Dec. 5, 2002.

According to government prosecutors, Anton knew of the meeting held on Oct. 14, 2002, around two months before the bombings, but failed to report on it to the local authorities.

Government prosecutors also laid similar charges against Masnur who was tried in another room.

The three were indicted for violating Government Regulation in Lieu of Law No.1/2002 and Law No. 15/2003 on antiterrorism for which they could receive the death sentence if convicted.

Besides facing similar charges, Suriadi was also indicted for violating the antiterrorism law for possessing arms and explosives without a permit from the authorities.

Haerul and Tang, tried in two separate rooms, were also indicted for breaching the antiterrorism law for giving a place for key suspect Agung Abdul Hamid to hide in Palu, Central Sulawesi, after the bombings.

Masnur, who was charged with assembling the explosives, rejected the charges as groundless.

"The indictments are baseless. They were engineered and the result of intimidation by interrogators," he said after the court session.

He said the bombings were launched by Agung and his gang in protest of the Malino peace agreement to end the conflict in Poso. "The peace agreement was seen as having failed to control Poso."

The peace agreement was signed by warring Muslim and Christian groups on Dec. 21 in Malino, some 70 kilometers north of the city to end the sectarian conflict that killed more than 2,000 people since Dec. 1998.

The court sessions were adjourned until Monday to hear the suspects' defense arguments that would be presented by their own lawyers.

All trial sessions proceeded smoothly as only dozens of the suspects' relatives were present while more than 230 police personnel were deployed to enhance security at the court compound.

The other seven suspects in the blasts were scheduled to go on trial at the same court on Thursday.