- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 21, 2003

From combined dispatches

BALI, Indonesia — The youngest of three Indonesian brothers being tried for last year’s deadly blasts on the tourist island of Bali begged for forgiveness yesterday, telling a court that the attack was wrong and besmirched Islam.

Though Ali Imron faces charges of plotting and organizing terror crimes similar to those of his older siblings, he has repeatedly shown remorse during the trial rather than the pride and defiance of his brothers.

He also said he hesitated before taking part in the attack, but could not defy his older brothers. The three are accused of playing central roles in the bombings that killed 202 persons, mostly foreign vacationers, on Bali’s famed Kuta Beach strip.

His brothers are Mukhlas Imron, the suspected commander of the Bali operation, who has retracted all of his earlier statements to the authorities; and Amrozi Imron, who has been sentenced to death in the only case that has reached a verdict so far.

“What I have done was a mistake from a religious and nationalistic point of view. I think it was not a jihad bomb. What happened in Legian Street was clearly not jihad,” Ali Imron said.

Wearing a black suit and tie — again different from other Bali defendants, who have appeared in traditional Muslim dress — Ali Imron said:

“I ask forgiveness from the Balinese, the Indonesian government and people and also the Islamic community. My deeds have smeared Islam and troubled Muslims,” he said.

Ali Imron’s demeanor was a stark contrast to the swaggering Amrozi Imron, who showed two thumbs up and denounced Jews when the Denpasar District Court sentenced him to death on Aug. 7.

Indonesian authorities have said the Bali bombings were the work of Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian militant Muslim group accused of plotting and carrying out attacks in the region.

Jakarta has also blamed the group for bombing the J.W. Marriott Hotel in the Indonesian capital earlier this month. The suicide car-bomb attack at the lobby of the U.S.-run hotel killed 12 persons and wounded 150 others.

In a related development, the radical Islamic cleric who leads Jemaah Islamiyah wept openly in a Jakarta courtroom yesterday as he accused the Indonesian government of framing him on charges of treason and plotting to assassinate its president.

A crying Abu Bakar Bashir denied any wrongdoing and said authorities in neighboring Singapore and Malaysia had tortured witnesses to testify against him.

The 64-year-old cleric is considered the spiritual head of Jemaah Islamiyah. He has not been charged with involvement in either attack. But Indonesian prosecutors say that under his leadership, Jemaah Islamiyah plotted to kill President Megawati Sukarnoputri with the wider aim of establishing an Islamic state in Indonesia.

He has been directly accused in a series of church blasts throughout Indonesia on Christmas Eve 2000 that killed 19 persons. Prosecutors say those attacks were designed to destabilize the country of 210 million people, mostly Muslims.

“I never had any intention to kill Megawati,” the cleric said. “This is just slander.”

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