Trial starts for militant accused of building Bali
By Olivia Rondonuwu
JAKARTA (Reuters) - An Islamic militant captured in the same Pakistan town where U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden went on trial in Indonesia on Monday accused of making bombs that exploded at Bali nightclubs packed with Australian tourists in 2002, killing 202 people.
Umar Patek, 45, is also accused of mixing chemicals for 13 bombs that detonated in five churches in Jakarta on Christmas Eve, 2000 and killed around 15 people. Security officials say he belonged to the banned Jemaah Islamiah group linked to al Qaeda.
The Bali bombs were a watershed for Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population, forcing the secular state to confront the presence of violent militants on its soil.
It has since been largely successful in containing militant attacks across the large archipelago. But the government of President Bambang Susilo Yudhoyono has been criticised for doing little to curb more general religious intolerance that has become increasingly common in the very diverse country.
Pakistani authorities caught Patek in January 2011 in the garrison town of Abbottabad where U.S. forces shot dead bin Laden. It is unclear whether the two met.
Patek was flanked by heavily armed officers as he was escorted into a district court in west Jakarta on Monday wearing a white Muslim cap, tunic and traditional ankle-length trousers.
He sat in silence as prosecutors took turns to read the 29-page indictment in the small courtroom. A handful of his supporters shouted "Allahu akbar" or God is greatest at the hearing. He will respond to the charges on Feb 20.
"The defendant met Imam Samudra (a key figure in the Bali bombings who was convicted and executed in 2008) and invited him to kill foreigners and tourists in Bali using bombs," state prosecutor Fri Hartono told a district court in Jakarta. Continued...