Lawyers Say Charges Against Bali Bomber Obscure

Published February 20, 2012 7:45AM (EST)

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Lawyers for the Indonesian militant who helped assemble bombs used in the 2002 nightclub blasts on Bali island said Monday that the charges against their client are obscure and should be dropped.

They also told the West Jakarta District Court that the country's tough anti-terrorism law can't be applied retroactively, and because Umar Patek didn't take part in preplanning meetings he also was not guilty of premeditated murder.

The trial for the 45-year-old — known as "Demolition Man" for his expertise with explosives — began last week.

Patek was one of the last few remaining ranking militants with the al-Qaida-linked regional network Jemaah Islamiyah still on the run when he was arrested a year ago in Pakistan. Intelligence agents found him in Abbottabad, the same northwestern town where Osama bin Laden was killed several months later.

He faces a maximum penalty of death by firing squad if convicted of various terror-related and criminal charges, most of which are tied to the Bali bombings that left 202 people dead, including 88 Australians and seven Americans. It was the deadliest terror strike ever in Asia.

Patek, wearing a white flowing gown, waved and smiled at reporters as he entered the courtroom Monday. He sat quietly, listening as his attorneys shot down the allegations.

Ashluddin Hatjani, who headed Patek's 14-member team of lawyers, said the charges faced by the defendant were "incomplete, obscure and not accurate." He also argued that because anti-terror legislation wasn't passed until 2003, it can't be applied retroactively.

And while Patek has admitted assembling the explosives, he did so at the request of one of the Bali bombing masterminds, Imam Samudra, who was executed in 2008, Hatjani said. Patek had no way of knowing how they would be used, he said.

Last week, prosecutors said Patek helped assemble detonating cords and boosters for the bombs as well as the suicide vests strapped to the militants who walked into two nightclubs throbbing on a busy Saturday night.

They said Patek left Bali for the city of Surabaya on Oct. 11, 2002 — one day before the blasts.

Prosecutors have also accused him of helping teach militants how to use assault rifles for a terrorist training camp that was uncovered in Aceh province in early 2010.

Hatjani denied that and other weapons smuggling allegations.

By Salon Staff

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