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Suspects in Bali Bombing Tried in Indonesian Court

Four Islamic militants have gone on trial in Indonesia on terrorism charges linked to the deadly 2005 restaurant bombings on the island of Bali.

The trials of the four men began Tuesday in Denpasar, the provincial capital of Indonesia's island of Bali.

Prosecutors opened their case by reading a statement of responsibility that was released shortly after the October suicide bombings at three separate restaurants killed 20 people plus the bombers. The statement says that the attacks were an act of revenge for the deaths of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The four men on trial are accused of supplying and transporting explosives used in the bombings, and giving shelter to Noordin Top - one of Southeast Asia's most wanted terrorists.

Noordin, the suspected bombing mastermind, is believed to be a top leader of the regional terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiyah. J.I. - the Southeast Asian group linked to al-Qaida - has been behind a series of attacks in Indonesia - including the first bombing in Bali in 2002 that killed 202 people.

Ken Conboy, terrorism expert and author of a book on J.I., says secular Indonesia - with the world's largest Muslim population - has is taking effective legal steps against Jemaah Islamiyah suspects.

"Every arrest helps. These admittedly are small fish but they picked up a lot of small fish after the first Bali bomb and I think it has a positive effect on the war on terrorism," Conboy says.

Since the first Bali bombings in 2002, Indonesian police have arrested and prosecuted more than 200 suspected J.I. terrorists. The three masterminds of the 2002 attacks have been sentenced to death.

The four men on trial in Bali now could face the death penalty if found guilty.

But terrorism expert Conboy says Indonesian courts have been giving heavy sentences only to those they consider top J.I. leaders.

"In most other cases they get amazingly light sentence especially for people that are caught for providing safe haven. Sometimes just a couple of years as a matter of fact," Conboy says.

Indonesian police say fugitive terrorist leader Noordin is now believed to have split from J.I. and is branching out in his training and recruiting of Islamic militants.

Security experts have praised Indonesia's efforts in trying to neutralize J.I. but say the group, and those linked to it, still pose a serious security threat in Southeast Asia.