JI men ready to turn on Hambali
Stephen Fitzpatrick, Jakarta correspondent | March 11, 2009
Article from: The Australian
TWO key Jemaah Islamiah terrorists serving life sentences for the 2002 Bali
nightclub bombings are preparing to testify against the organisation's
mastermind, Riduan "Hambali" Isamuddin.
The pair, Ali Imron and Hutomo Pamungkas (aka Mubarok), have told police that
Hambali -- now held in the US's Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba -- had
financed and organised a series of church bombings across the country on
Christmas Eve, 2000.
Those attacks, which killed 18 people, were intended to raise JI members'
enthusiasm for war on "non-believers", according to an interview given by the
two men to the Jakarta Globe newspaper.
The former JI operations commander is also believed to have masterminded the
2002 Bali attacks after a meeting that resolved to hit "soft targets".
Imron and Mubarok have little reason to turn on their former boss other than in
an attempt to seek continued preferential treatment -- including remaining in
relative comfort at national police headquarters in Jakarta, rather than in an
Imron was infamously taken for a trip to a local Starbucks cafe in 2004 as a
reward for co-operating with police.
According to reports, Indonesian police are now preparing a case against
Hambali, 44, who has become the centre of a tug-of-war as US and Indonesian
officials ponder where he should be tried.
The question has gained urgency with US President Barack Obama's declaration
that he would have the Guantanamo Bay facility closed.
Hambali, an Indonesian national sometimes referred to as Southeast Asia's Osama
bin Laden (he fought alongside the al-Qa'ida chief in Afghanistan in the 1980s)
was captured near Bangkok in 2003 and a $US10million reward paid to Thai
His whereabouts remained a mystery for three years, until it was revealed he
had been transferred to Guantanamo Bay.
The Jakarta Globe earlier quoted government sources saying Indonesia did not
want Hambali returned to the country to face trial, for fear he could
reactivate terrorist elements.
"If he comes back here, he'll start using his mobile phone to reconnect with
his old network," the newspaper quoted an Indonesian official as saying.
Jakarta has a further reason to fear Hambali's return to Indonesia: authorities
believe he could be playing high-stakes games to be moved to a jurisdiction
where there is not enough evidence for a conviction.
Imron, the younger brother of executed Bali bombers Amrozi and Ali Ghufron,
avoided a firing squad by expressing remorse for the 2002 crimes.
But according to the Globe they have told police in great detail of Hambali's
role in the Christmas Eve 2000 operations, which targeted Christians across six
They said they met Hambali and Amrozi in a hotel in Surabaya, East Java, a few
weeks before the attacks.
"It's the proper time to take revenge by bombing churches," Hambali told the
two men, according to the report yesterday.
"Amrozi, Mubarok and I spent the night in Hambali's hotel room, and early in
the morning we, including Hambali, went to Mojokerto (a nearby city) to survey
An Indonesian conviction is likely to rely heavily on these allegations, since
confessions made by Hambali outside the country would be inadmissible.
Legal experts also believe trying Hambali for the 2000 or 2002 attacks under
the same retroactive anti-terrorism legislation used to convict Amrozi, Mukhlas
and fellow executed bomber Imam Samudra, would be impossible. He might,
however, be prosecuted under that legislation for the 2003 Marriott hotel
bombing in Jakarta, which he allegedly helped fund and plan.
Or he could instead be prosecuted for murder over the 2000 bombings under the
general criminal code, a trial that would reignite questions about whether the
death sentences obtained for the three had in fact been based on sound