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Bali Bombing Suspect Says Police Threatened to Torture Him - 2003-06-19


A suspect in last year's Bali bombing says Indonesian police threatened to torture him if he did not implicate an Islamic preacher accused of treason. The suspect made his statements at the trial of Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, who is accused of leading a regional terrorist group.

Bali bombing suspect Amrozi bin Nurhaysim testified he was coerced into falsely saying he knew Abu Bakar Bashir. Mr. Amrozi testified Thursday at the Islamic cleric's trial on treason charges. Mr. Amrozi testifies he saw his older brother tortured and was told he had to admit he had a relationship with Mr. Bashir. If he refused, Mr. Amrozi says, police threatened him with torture. Indonesian authorities deny using torture or threats against Mr. Amrozi, who is among more than 30 suspects arrested in the October bomb attack on the island of Bali. Police say the attack, which killed 202 people, was the work of Jemaah Islamiyah, a regional terrorist network.

Mr. Bashir is suspected of being the group's spiritual leader. The charges against him, however, do not involve the Bali attack.

Mr. Bashir, 64, is charged with treason for alleged plots to attack Western interests in Singapore and to assassinate Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri. He denies the charges.

In Thursday's court session, Mr. Amrozi said he did not attend sermons Mr. Bashir gave when they both lived in Malaysia in the 1990's. That contradicts the statement he gave to police.

Analysts say JI began to gain strength in Malaysia in the 1990's, where Mr. Bashir and other Islamic hard-liners fled to escape persecution by the Indonesian government of the time. Since police charge that Mr. Bashir's role in JI was largely behind the scenes, analysts say establishing his relationship with the Bali suspects is key to winning a conviction.

Sidney Jones is an analyst with the Jakarta office of the think-tank, the International Crisis Group.

"If they can establish that Amrozi and the other Bali suspects were very much involved with the community around Bashir … in Malaysia they've got a much, much stronger case than they do if there's just casual communication in Indonesia," he said.

So far, however, no witnesses have made a clear link between Mr. Bashir and JI, which the United States and other countries say has ties to the al-Qaida terror network.

Police say Mr. Amrozi has confessed to buying the van and the chemicals used to make the car bomb that went off in a tourist area in Bali last year.

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