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Prosecutors Seek Dealth Penalty for Alleged Bali Bombing Mastermind - 2003-07-28

Prosecutors in Indonesia are demanding a death sentence for the man they allege masterminded last October's bombing on the island of Bali. Abdul Aziz, also known as Imam Samudra, is showing no remorse for the deaths of more than 200 people.

Prosecutors allege that Imam Samudra was the planner behind the team that bought, built and planted three bombs, the largest of which was detonated outside a crowded Bali tourist nightclub on a Saturday night. More than 200 people, including 88 Australians, died in the attack.

The prosecutors said the 33-year-old computer programmer, who admitted a role in the bombing, but said he was not the planner, should be put to death.

Singapore political analyst Kumar Ramakrishna said calls for the harsh penalty may reflect the Indonesian government's desire to show it is tough on terror. "The Jakarta administration is fully aware that while the Bali bombers may be on trial, in the larger sense Jakarta is on trial as well. … This time last year, before the Bali blast, the Indonesian government was unconvinced that there was a terrorist threat in the country. But after the Bali blast they have really done a great deal in rolling up a number of the Jemaah Islamiyah militants," he said.

American officials say Jamaah Islamiyah is al Qaida's Southeast Asian affiliate. Indonesian police say Imam Samudra is a senior operational member of the terrorist group.

Imam Samudra was defiant when he appeared in court Monday. As police escorted him to his seat, he punched the air with his fist, shouting "Allahu akbar," or God is great. Imam Samudra is one of four men on trial for the bombing. Only one of the four, Ali Imron, has expressed regret for his actions.

Earlier in his trial, Imam Samudra told the court he believed he had a moral and religious obligation to kill westerners because they were oppressing Muslims and Muslim nations. He told his lawyers he would embrace the death sentence, seeing it as martyrdom in the "holy war" against western interests.

Like many of his co-accused, Imam Samudra, spent time in Afghanistan, where he said he met Osama bin Laden and trained with fellow militants.

More than 30 men have been arrested in connection with the Bali bombs.

The court has adjourned for two weeks and the trial will continue, with Imam Samudra preparing his own defense.