Militant denies making Bali bombs at trial

AP News
Posted: Mar 22, 2012 6:38 AM
Militant denies making Bali bombs at trial

An Indonesian militant accused of building the massive Bali car bomb used in the deadly 2002 terrorist attacks on nightclubs insisted Thursday at his trial that another militant, not he, assembled the device.

Umar Patek _ a leading member of the al-Qaida-linked network Jemaah Islamiyah _ told the West Jakarta District Court that he did not have the expertise to build anything as big as the 1,540-pound (700-kilogram) explosive that authorities say was used in the attacks on the two clubs along with other bombs.

"I would not know how to assemble such a bomb," he said, contradicting claims made to interrogators following his arrest last year in Pakistan.

He told Indonesian interrogators after his capture and extradition that he spent nearly a week with co-conspirators in a Bali safehouse, painstakingly assembling the huge bomb using household items including a rice ladle, a grocer's scale and plastic bags.

Patek faces a maximum penalty of death by firing squad if found guilty of various terrorism-related and criminal charges, including the Bali attacks that left 202 people dead.

Most of the victims were foreign tourists to the resort island.

Patek told the court Thurdsay that he was present when the bombs used in the twin attacks were made but did not actually help build them.

He testified that it was Malaysian bomb maker Azahari bin Husin, killed during a raid by anti-terrorism forces in 2005, who mixed almost all of the chemicals, he insisted Thursday.

"He's the only one who had the scientific knowledge to make a bomb like that," Patek said, noting that the slain militant had a doctorate degree in physics.

Prosecutors have argued that Patek is a skilled bomb-maker.

Another Jemaah Islamiyah militant _ Ali Imron, who is serving a life sentence for his role in the Bali bombings and is now a police informer _ was with the other militants in the safehouse while the bombs were being made.

Though called as a witness for the prosecution, Imron surprised courtroom observers by supporting Patek.

"I never saw him actually mixing chemicals," he said, "just picking up bags containing explosives."

Patek is the top remaining suspect in the Bali nightclub bombings about a year after the Sept. 11 attacks, which brought international attention to Jemaah Islamiyah, an al-Qaida-linked movement intent on creating a pan-Islamic state throughout Southeast Asia.

Three masterminds in the attack already have been tried and executed, and authorities have made big strides in dismantling Jemaah Islamiyah.