Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Militant tries to avoid the death penalty

In a plea to try to save his life, beheadings ringleader Hasanuddin asks for mercy. Mercy is something didn't have before when planning the attacks so why should it be shown now for him?

(Releads with admission and comments from main defendant)

JAKARTA, Nov 15 (Reuters) - The main defendant in the beheadings of three Christian schoolgirls last year admitted on Wednesday he was involved in planning to carry out the attack but rejected charges he came up with the idea.

Prosecutors last week accused Muslim militant Hasanuddin of masterminding the atrocity although they said he did not take part in the actual ambush in the Poso region of Central Sulawesi province, an area where deadly Muslim-Christian clashes broke out from 1998 to 2001.

When the trial resumed on Wednesday, Hasanuddin said: "I was involved in this case." But he added a fugitive Islamic cleric had masterminded the plot during talks in which he participated.

"With honesty and sincerity coming from my heart, I ask for forgiveness from the families of the victims. I promise to never repeat it again," the 34-year-old said.

The beheadings triggered an outcry across Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, and beyond. The Vatican described the attack as "barbaric".

Prosecutors said last week the attack was plotted by Hasanuddin to avenge the killing of scores of Muslims at a boarding school by a Christian mob in 2000, the peak of the Poso violence.

Earlier on Wednesday, prosecutors outlined the roles of two other Muslim men in the beheading case.

The prosecution said defendants Lilik Purnomo and Irwanto Irano were following Hasanuddin's orders when they carried out the attack against four girls on their way to school.

"Irwanto Irano was assigned to lead the ambush on the small path assisted by four other members of the group. Lilik Purnomo was the field coordinator assigned to observe the situation," state prosecutor Firmansyah said.

Lead prosecutor Asep Maryono said the two defendants faced charges of criminal conspiracy in a terrorist crime and premeditated murder, both offences carry the maximum penalty of death.

Abu Bakar Rasyide, a defence lawyer for Purnomo and Irano, said after the court hearing: "We cannot accept the charges because they are not based on facts."

The prosecution said neither Purnomo nor Irano were the ones who swung the machetes that decapitated the three girls during the Oct. 29, 2005 attack.

The other alleged members of the seven-member ambush team are still at large, including one whose job was to make sure the girls could not escape.

One of the four girls who was attacked was wounded but managed to escape and report what had happened.

All three defendants are being tried under Indonesia's anti-terrorism laws and could face death by firing squad if the court finds them guilty.

The trials could last for months.

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