Monday, 25 February 2008

Bali executions will inspire martyrs: expert

A leading expert on Islamist terrorist networks said the execution of the Bali bombers will inspire the next generation of terrorist "martyrs" and help spread the extremist cause.

Rohan Guaratna called instead for a longer-term approach to containing and dismantling terrorist influence, one which combines a "strategic fight for peace" with an integrated strategy to counter the threat of ideologically inspired violence.

Amrozi bin Nurhasyim, Imam Samudra and Mukhlas (also known as Ali Ghufron) were sentenced to death for the October 2002 bombing on Bali, which killed 202 people and injured a further 200.

Despite repeated claims by the three that they won't appeal their convictions and they welcome martyrdom by firing squad, their lawyers last month successfully applied for a second judicial review of their cases.

The reviews, which began hearings in Denpasar District Court today, could delay their deaths by several months.

Repentance, jihad and conspiracies
Dr Gunaratna wrote on the website of Australia's ABC broadcaster in December 2007 that most of the 30 people convicted of a role in the bombing conspiracy had since "repented and expressed remorse".

But Amrozi, Imam Samudra and Mukhlas continued to defend their actions as a religious duty of Muslims to wage jihad.

"The executed bombers will be seen as martyrs or 'shahid' by some of the Islamists and most of the jihadists," he wrote.

"They will be congratulated by like minded individuals and groups. Instead of being angry, JI and other Jihadist groups will seek revenge."

He said most Indonesian jihadists believed the United States was driving the decision to execute the men.

"Most Indonesian jihadists believe in conspiracy theory that the US is guiding Indonesia's decision to execute them. They contend that even the Indonesian court system is under US pressure.

"Within the Jihadist and Islamist communities, such propaganda has generated sympathy and support for the Bali bombers. As such, the execution of Bali bombers could trigger more support for Muslim extremism and terrorism in Indonesia."

Their execution would "send an unequivocal message that terrorism will not be tolerated", and would deter "a segment of the Islamists and Jihadists".

But it would also "inspire [a] small segment of Islamists and Jihadists to become the next generation of martyrs," he said.

Isolation, not execution
Dr Gunaratna was critical of the conditions the condemned prisoners have been held in, which allowed them to radicalise fellow detainees and distribute jihadist propaganda beyond the prison walls.

But that did not mean they should therefore be executed.

"Ideally, the strategy for managing terrorists that have killed men, women and children is not to execute them. It is for government to seek life imprisonment and enlist their cooperation and collaboration to generate the intelligence required to dismantle the existing and emerging terrorist networks.

"If uncooperative, they must be held in isolation for 23 of the 24 hours of the day.

"The prison should never be allowed to serve as a venue for jihadists to educate each other, recruit and train criminals, and produce literature that justify and inspire others to kill.

"Like a school, every prison should become a centre to plant the seeds of peace in the minds of the misguided and the unfortunate."

Only "strategic vision" ends terrorism
Rather than executing unrepentant terrorists, Dr Gunaratna said a "long term, strategic, and a visionary approach" was now needed.

"It is only then that the real fight against extremism and its by-product terrorism will begin," he said.

"To end terrorism, the strategic fight for peace has not yet started."

Related stories:
Bali bombers may soon get their wish -- 10 November, 2007
Bali: Execution closer for bombing leaders -- 09 October, 2007
Bali bombers lodge appeals -- 08 December, 2006
Execution delay for Bali bombers -- 21 August, 2006
Bali bombers closer to execution -- 11 April, 2006

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