Bali bombing 'mastermind' sentenced to death by firing squad

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The 'mastermind' of last year's nightclub bombings in Bali was sentenced to death by firing squad today for carrying out the bombings.

Ali Ghufron, who goes under the alias Mukhlas, was "proven guilty of planning a terrorist action ... and we the judges sentence him to death," Judge Cokorda Rai Suamba said.

Ghufron is the third defendant in the case to be sentenced to death for the attack last October which killed 202 people, many of them Australian tourists. Sixteen others have received prison terms ranging from seven years to life.

He is the last of four main suspects to be tried in connection with the near-simultaneous bombings of two nightclubs and the American consulate that shattered the peace in one of the world's premier tourist islands.

Ghufron, who was charged with overseeing planning meetings for the attack, reacted calmly to the ruling and told the judges that he would appeal. "The verdict is not in line with Islamic teachings," he said.

During the trial, he admitted to having been the operations chief of Jemaah Islamiyah, extremist group accused in the Bali bombings, which has been linked to al-Qa'ida. He has also admitted to travelling to Afghanistan in the 1980s and fighting alongside Osama bin Laden.

During the trial Ghufron showed no remorse for the attacks and, like other Bali suspects, used court appearances to attack the United States.

He has called President George Bush a terrorist and said the Bali bombings were carried out to avenge the suffering of Muslims at the hands of America and Israel.

Death sentences in Indonesia are rare, but are allowed under a new anti-terror law adopted in the wake of the Bali attack. They are carried out by a firing squad of 15 paramilitary policemen.

"Mukhlas and the other terrorists are the lowest form of life," said Ashley Stenyer of Victoria, Australia, who was in one of the clubs when it was bombed and had travelled to Bali to attend the trial.

"But I don't think he should have got the death penalty. I want to see all these defendants in jail for the rest of their lives," he said.

The Bali attack was reportedly part of a Jemaah Islamiyah campaign to destabilize Indonesia and pave the way for an Islamic state across South-east Asia. The network's alleged commander, Riduan Isamuddin Hambali, was captured last month in Thailand and is now in US custody.

Jemaah Islamiyah also is accused of directing the car bombing of a US-owned hotel in Jakarta which killed 12 people last August. At least a dozen suspects have been arrested but none have been formally charged.

The group's alleged spiritual leader, Abu Bakar Bashir, was sentenced last month to four years in prison for sedition. But he was acquitted of heading Jemaah Islamiyah, a ruling greeted with dismay by Western governments.

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