Trial Opens For Top Suspect In 2002 Bali Bombings

Published February 13, 2012 6:18AM (EST)

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — The Muslim militant suspected of building the bombs used in the 2002 Bali attack went on trial Monday on terrorism charges, a year after he was arrested in Pakistan while apparently trying to meet Osama bin Laden.

Umar Patek is the top remaining suspect in the Bali nightclub bombings, which killed 202 people about a year after the Sept. 11 attacks and brought international attention to an al-Qaida-linked group intent on creating a pan-Islamic state throughout Southeast Asia.

Three masterminds in the attack already have been tried and executed, and authorities have made big strides in dismantling their regional terror group, Jemaah Islamiyah.

But Patek, nicknamed "Demolition Man" by Indonesian investigators, escaped the country after the attack and went on a nine-year flight from justice that took him to the Philippines and Pakistan, allegedly in pursuit of more terror opportunities.

He was captured in January 2011 in the same Pakistani town where U.S. Navy Seals would kill Osama bin Laden just a few months later. Patek was then one of Asia's most wanted terror suspects, with a $1 million bounty on his head, and Indonesian officials say he was on a mission to raise money and meet bin Laden.

Patek was tightly guarded as he entered the West Jakarta District Court on Monday.

He smiled to reporters and photographers but did not respond to questions shouted by journalists. Wearing a white robe and a white skullcap, Patek, 45, sat quietly as the indictment was read out by state prosecutors, led by Bambang Suharijadi.

Patek, whose real name is Hisyam Bin Alizein and who has several aliases, could face death by firing squad if convicted of the various charges against him. The indictment includes charges of premeditated murder, hiding information about terrorism, illegal possession of explosives and conspiracy to commit terrorism.

He also is accused of providing explosives for a string of Christmas Eve attacks on churches in 2000 which claimed 19 lives.

In a re-enactment organized by police in Bali while he was in custody, Patek showed how he and other conspirators stashed a 1,540-pound (700-kilogram) bomb in four filing cabinets, loaded it in a Mitsubishi L300 van along with a TNT vest bomb.

The van was detonated outside two nightclubs on Bali's famous Kuta beach.

Patek left Bali a few days before the Oct. 12 attacks were carried out, while Imam Samudra and two other masterminds of the Bali attacks — brothers Amrozi Nurhasyim and Ali Ghufron — were caught, tried and executed.

Patek later told interrogators that he and other militants involved in the Bali bombing met a week after the attack to celebrate and assess how they could have done it better.

"The meeting was led by Muklas to evaluate the shortcomings of the execution of the suicide bombings," he was quoted as saying in an interrogation report obtained by The Associated Press. "The meeting was also to thank God and eat together for the success of the bombings that we had carried out in Bali."

By Salon Staff

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