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3rd Suspect Goes on Trial for Bali Bombing - 2003-06-16

A third key suspect has gone on trial on charges he helped plot last year's devastating terrorist attack on the Indonesian island of Bali. Ali Ghufron, the alleged operations chief for the Islamic militant group Jemaah Islamiyah, faces the death penalty if convicted. Ali Ghufron, also known as Mukhlas, faced charges he held meetings and helped channel funds used to carry out October's Bali bombing. Prosecutors opened proceedings against Mr. Ghufron in Bali Monday, by reading of a 30 page indictment against him.

Prosecutor Putu Indriati said Mr. Ghufron held meetings with other bombing suspects to discuss how to struggle against the United States and its allies who they believe indiscriminately slaughter and oppress Muslims in many places. She adds the group planned to put the bomb in Bali because it is a destination for a lot of foreign tourists from America and other places.

Two-hundred-two people died in Bali on October 12, when two bombs were detonated in a crowded tourist area. It was the worst terrorist attack in Indonesia's history, and it prompted worldwide concerns about the rise of Islamic extremism in Southeast Asia.

Many of the blasts' victims were foreign tourists, the majority of them Australians, a fact the prosecutor said pleased Mr. Ghufron. Prosecutor Indriati said when the defendant heard on the radio that the bomb had exploded on Bali, he thanked God the plan had succeeded and many of the victims were America's allies, the Australians.

Indonesian authorities say Mr. Ghufron is an operations chief of Jemaah Islamiyah, or JI, a regional terrorist network with suspected links to the al-Qaida network. He is believed to have replaced another leading JI operative who remains at large, Riduan Isamuddin, who also goes by the name Hambali.

In recent weeks, Mr. Ghufron has bragged that he has met many times with al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden.

Police have arrested more than 30 people for their roles in the Bali bombing. Mr. Ghufron is the third suspect to go on trial. But unlike suspects Amrozi bin Nur Hasyim and the alleged mastermind of the plot, Imam Samudra, Mr.Ghufron has not confessed to any crime.

Judges adjourned the trial for one week after the reading of the indictment. If convicted, Mr. Ghufron could face the death penalty.