First Bali bomb suspect charged

Indonesian prosecutors formally charged their first suspect today over last year's terrorist bombings on the resort island of Bali which killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.

Indonesian prosecutors formally charged their first suspect today over last year's terrorist bombings on the resort island of Bali which killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.

The suspect, known by the single name Amrozi, is alleged to be a member of Jemaah Islamiyah, the al-Qaida-linked regional terror group that has been blamed for the bombings at two nightclubs in Bali on October 12.

One of 32 people detained in connection with the attack, Amrozi has been charged with violating the country's new anti-terror laws. If convicted, he could face the death penalty, said Antasari Ashar, a spokesman for the prosecution.

Among the charges Amrozi faces is that he "planned or organised other people to commit acts of terrorism". His trial is expected to begin before May 12, Mr Ashar said.

Amrozi's arrest on November 5 was considered the first major breakthrough in the investigation. Police said he bought the explosives used in the attack and drove the van that exploded outside the Sari Club in the shopping and nightclub area of Kuta Beach.

The blasts were the bloodiest terrorist attack since the September 11 strikes in the United States. Jemaah Islamiyah is also thought to be behind a series of Christmas Eve church bombings in Indonesia in 2000, as well as a foiled plot to blow up US, Australian, British and Israeli missions in Singapore.

The group's alleged leader, Abu Bakar Bashir, is currently on trial in Jakarta for treason in connection with the church attacks. He has not been charged over the Bali bombings.

Dozens of alleged Jemaah Islamiyah members have been arrested in Singapore and Malaysia. The group's goal, according to regional law enforcement officials, is to establish a pan-Islamic state in southeast Asia.

The other suspects arrested over the Bali blasts are expected to go on trial later this year. All the trials are scheduled to take place in Bali itself.

Meanwhile in Jakarta, the national police chief, General Da'i Bachtiar, said 15 suspected members of Jemaah Islamiyah arrested last week in Indonesia were believed to have "indirect links" with the Bali bombings.

Mr Bachtiar said some of the 15 allegedly helped hide other Bali bomb suspects, but gave no other details. Another three suspected members also arrested last week were linked directly to the blasts, he said.

Staff and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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