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Bali Bombing Suspect Expresses Remorse - 2003-09-04

One of the alleged organizers of the terrorist bombing in Bali last October has for the first time expressed remorse for the 202 people who died in the attack, and has pleaded for clemency.

Prosecutors allege that Ali Ghufron, who is also known as Mukhlas, was one of the key organizers behind the Bali bombs. Mr. Mukhlas told a court Thursday he was merely an advisor to the plotters and, in a move that surprised many onlookers, he said he regretted the deaths that had been caused.

Prosecutors have called for the death sentence for Mr. Mukhlas, but he asked the five-judge panel for leniency. Apparently conceding that he will be found guilty, he said he hoped that they would give him a life sentence or less for what he had done. Until Thursday, he had voiced no sympathy for the victims of the blast.

Many of the victims were Westerners, and at least one of those was unimpressed with the defendant's statement of remorse. Jake Ryan is a former professional Australian Rules Footballer who lost many friends and half his right foot in the attack. He said only the death penalty or a life sentence would fit the crime. "It doesn't really bother me as long as they give him the full sentence either way," says Mr. Ryan. "So if they shoot him then fair enough, or they can lock him up for life and they can do it that way as well but I certainly don't think that just because you show some regret he should be given a lighter sentence."

Mr. Mukhlas is the eldest of three brothers allegedly involved in the Bali attack, all of whom have been tried separately. One brother, Amrozi, has already been sentenced to death. He admitted his part in the bombing and never apologized, but he is appealing the death sentence.

Prosecutors earlier this week called for a 20-year sentence for the third brother, Ali Imron, who has cooperated with the investigation and consistently shown remorse.

Prosecutors say Mr. Mukhlas is a senior regional leader of the Southeast Asian terrorist organization Jemaah Islamiyah, the group that has been blamed for a series of attacks across the region, including the Bali bombing and last month's suicide bombing of the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta.

Hundreds of suspected Jemaah Islamiyah members have been arrested in the past 18 months, but analysts warn that the group has strong regenerative capabilities and can be expected to strike again.