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Bali bombing suspect cries out before trial

By Associated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 3, 2003

BALI, Indonesia - The Islamic militant accused of carrying out the deadly nightclub bombings on Bali raised his fist, shouted at his lawyers and then sat listlessly as prosecutors opened his trial Monday by accusing him of being a terrorist who wanted "to declare war on the United States."

Imam Samudra, 32, is accused of planning the Oct. 12 attacks, which killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists. He is suspected of being a key figure in the al-Qaida-linked Southeast Asian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, believed responsible for the bombings.

As the trial began, a grim-looking Samudra turned to his seven lawyers and shouted three times "Allahu akbar," or "God is great." Then he yelled "Takbir!" or "Proclaim!" - a religious rallying cry. His lawyers responded with a muted "Allahu akbar."

Samudra, who was dressed in a white loose-fitting shirt and wearing an Islamic prayer cap, then sat impassively in a swivel chair and listened while prosecutors read out the indictment against him.

Prosecutors portrayed the brazen, often defiant Samudra as the mastermind behind the bombings, the world's worst terror attacks since Sept. 11, 2001. They described him as an Afghan-trained radical who picked the targets - two crowded clubs in the heart of Bali's nightlife district - recruited the perpetrators and helped raise funds for the attacks.

If found guilty, Samudra could be executed under antiterror laws passed after the bombings.

The defense asked the court to dismiss the charges, partly because the new laws were passed after the crime. But with intense international pressure for a conviction, it's unlikely the court will grant that request.

Police say the 32-year-old computer whiz has already confessed to the crimes. His lawyers admit he probably will be found guilty.

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