Jihadists convicted in the heinous Bali bombings in 2002 were tied to poles and shot dead by firing squad on Saturday, despite pleas from victims’ families that their sentence could result in further atrocities.
The bombings claimed the lives of a total of 202 people, including 88 Australians, 38 Indonesians, and 24 Britons, in the attacks in the resort town of Kuta, which was carried out by the Indonesian cell of a south-east Asian, militant group known as Jemaah Islamiyah.
The executions, which had been widely expected, came despite last-minute pleas to the Indonesian authorities from relatives of some of the British dead for the sentences to be stayed, warning that they would be used as a propaganda coup by the militants’ supporters and families.
Jasman Panjaitan, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s office, told a news conference last night that Imam Samudra, Amrozi Nurhasyim, and Ali Ghufron had been executed on the prison island of Nusakambangan off southern Java.
The men were led out from isolation cells in their jail on Kambangan, an island just off the southern coast of the island of Java, and tied to stakes in the ground. They refused blindfolds and were shot through the heart at close range by rifles fired by members of Indonesia’s special police. Following negotiations with the men’s families, their bodies will be flown by helicopter to their home villages for burial.
As news of the killings spread around the globe, western countries renewed warnings to their citizens to be vigilant against reprisal attacks. Although the men had said repeatedly that they were happy to die as “martyrs,” their families and legal representatives had appealed against the death sentences right up to the country’s constitutional court.
The three men were found guilty of planning and helping to carry out the attacks on October 12, 2002 that thrust Indonesia onto the front line in the war on terrorism. They never expressed any remorse, even taunting some of the relatives of their victims at their trials five years ago.
In recent months, the men publicly expressed hope their executions would trigger revenge attacks in the world’s most populous Muslim nation. Police responded by stepping up security at foreign embassies, oil depots, and at tourist resorts.
In Australia, where 88 of the victims were from, there had been last-minute appeals for clemency from some families. Former Adelaide magistrate Brian Deegan, whose son Josh was a victim, told local media, “I would sooner they repent for the rest of their natural lives rather than meet an unnatural death.”
However, others had opposed the calls for clemency, including Australian survivor Peter Hughes, who attended the bombers’ trial and has insisted that the three men’s deaths would bring some sort of “closure.”
Jemaah Islamiah group, Abu Bakar Bashir, who urged his followers to fight for Islam, praised the bombers as heroes adding: “Their fighting spirit in defending Islam should be followed. We will win the fight in this world or die as martyrs. Even if they are murdered, they will die as Islamic martyrs.”
There were shouts of “Goodbye Heroes,” “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great), and “Live nobly or die as martyrs,” as the bodies of Mukhlas and Amrozi were carried through their village in the rain, draped in clothes embroidered with Koranic verses. According to news agency reports, prayers were recited over the coffins by Abu Bakar Bashir, who was convicted on several charges connected to the bombings but released in 2005 after only two years in jail.
The great majority of Indonesia’s two hundred million Muslims are practitioners of a moderate and tolerant faith, but the country’s vast size and huge population have fostered a small but violent hard core of violent fundamentalists. None of the three bombers, who were sentenced to death in 2003, have ever expressed any regret for the attack, except to say that they are sorry there were Muslim victims. The Australian government was criticized by human rights groups for failing to articulate its policy of active opposition to the death sentence in the case of the Bali killers – especially given that three Australians are on death row in Bali for drug smuggling.