Trial starts for militant accused of building Bali bombs

JAKARTA Mon Feb 13, 2012 6:38am GMT

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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, that killed around 15 people. Security officials say he belonged to the banned Jemaah Islamiah group linked to al Qaeda.

Pakistani authorities caught Patek in January 2011 in the garrison town of Abbottabad where U.S. forces shot dead al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden last May. It is unclear whether the two met.

"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.

"Samudra asked the defendant to mix explosives for the bombs and he agreed," Hartono said.

Patek was flanked by heavily armed officers as he was escorted into the courtroom wearing a white Muslim cap, tunic and traditional ankle-length pants.

He sat in silence as prosecutors took turns to read the 29-page indictment in the small room. 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 threat from Islamic militants in Indonesia has diminished in recent years because of a campaign by security forces against Jemaah Islamiah and associated groups and also because of convictions of militant leaders, according to analysts.

They say Patek is one of the few militants who understands the connection between Islamic militants in Southeast Asia and al Qaeda in the region. He was wanted in the United States, the Philippines and Australia.

Indonesia is a secular state with the world's largest population of Muslims and significant numbers of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Confucians. Most Indonesian Muslims are Sunni and there is little popular support for violent militants.

(Editing by Matthew Bigg and Nick Macfie)

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