Monday, 25 August 2008

Uncertain when Islamist bombers will die

Time is running out for the Indonesian government to execute three Islamist terrorists this week for the October 2002 Bali bombing.

Attorney-General Hendarman Supandji has reportedly said he wanted the men shot before the start of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting and forgiveness.

This year Ramadan is expected to begin at sunset on 31 August.

However it is not clear whether the attorney-general has signed the necessary orders, and whether there would be enough time for authorities to make the final preparations.

Indonesian media report the Bali police and prosecutors are working together to coordinate arrangements for the executions.

Death row prisoners in Indonesia are usually given 72 hours notice when a date is set.

Amrozi bin Nurhasyim, Ali Ghufron (also known as Mukhlas) and Imam Samudra were convicted of organising the bombing, in which 202 people died.

The men are being held in a prison on Nusakambangan Island, off the coast of Central Java.

In July 2008, two Bali prosecutors reportedly inspected a field on the island where the executions would be carried out.

If they are not executed this week, the government is expected to wait until after Ramadan, rather than risk a religious backlash.

The prisoners have said in the past that they welcomed their execution, although they would prefer to be beheaded, which they claimed was a more 'Islamic' form of execution.

Constitutional challenge underway
The three may be shot while the country's Constitutional Court is considering their challenge to the standard method of execution.

In mid-August, the court agreed to hear an application from the men's lawyers arguing execution by firing squad amounted to torture.

"The appellants have a constitutional right not to be tortured," the application said. They argued that a delay between the shots by a firing squad and their deaths would constitute torture.

The court asked them to expand on their submissions at the court's next hearing, set down for this week.

The bombers' lawyers also have sent a letter to the attorney-general requesting a delay until a Constitutional Court challenge is completed.

The application is widely seen as a further legal manoeuvre designed to delay the executions, but the government has said it would have no bearing on when the sentences were carried out.

"Preparations are continuing - we don't need to wait for a decision from the Constitutional Court. When we are ready, we will execute," a government spokesman said after the preliminary court hearing on 14 August.

Law and Human Rights Minister Andi Mattalatta said in early August that the constitutional challenge had no implication for the impending executions.

"Execution is one problem and the decision of the Constitutional Court is another," he said.

"There is no relationship."

'Foreign pressure' claim
The defence legal team also attempted to incite opposition to the executions by portraying the government as giving in to foreign pressure.

"The question now is why is the Attorney-General's office in a hurry to execute them?" lawyer Adnan Wirawan said.

"Are they under the pressure of the Australian community to execute the three bombers right away?"

'Security tightened'
The Antara newsagency has reported that security had been tightened around Nusakambangan Island in preparation for the executions.

According to the report, the head of Nusakambangan's Batu Correctional Institute, Sudijanto, issued a circular on 11 August prohibiting local fishermen from the waters around the island, citing security reasons.

Related stories:
Bali executions will inspire martyrs: expert -- 25 February 2008
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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