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Indonesian bomb suspect never met bin Laden: lawyer

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Suspected Indonesian bombmaker Umar Patek’s stay in the same Pakistani town where Osama bin Laden was later killed in a US raid was a coincidence and the pair never met, his lawyer said yesterday. Patek, 45, faces six counts of murder, bomb-making and illegal firearms possession over the 2002 Bali nightclub attacks, and prosecutors say they will push for the death penalty. In his trial at the West Jakarta court on Monday, defence lawyers objected to the murder charges, saying Patek was not involved in planning the bombing that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.
Patek, once the most wanted terror suspect in Indonesia, had a $1 million bounty on his head under the US rewards for justice programme.
He was extradited to Indonesia after being arrested in January 2011 in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad, where US commandos later killed Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
Defence lawyer Asludin Hatjani denied that Patek had gone to Pakistan to meet with the Al-Qaeda boss. “He went to Pakistan as part of his plans to migrate to Afghanistan. He never met Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and he had no plans to meet him. In fact, he had no idea Osama was in Abbottabad,” Hatjani said.
He denied Patek was linked to Al-Qaeda. “Even the police statements make no mention of his links to Al-Qaeda,” he said.
Patek was a suspected key member of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a Southeast Asian terror network with suspected links to Al-Qaeda.
Hatjani added that Patek’s role in the Bali bombings was smaller than the prosecution was trying to portray. “His role in the Bali bombing was that he... participated in assembling the bombs,” he told reporters after Monday’s session.
“The premeditated murder charge is not appropriate.”
He said defence lawyers had also denied that Patek tested three M16 assault rifles to help prepare a terrorist training camp in Aceh province on Sumatra island, where police say militants were planning gun attacks on prominent Indonesian figures.
“He never participated in the testing of firearms. He was in the area but to attend a wedding. He never saw any firearms or took part in the militant training... We call that this charge be legally invalid.”
“The prosecution will prove in future trials and bring forward witnesses to prove that our premeditated murder charge has basis,” prosecutor Bambang Suharyadi told AFP.
According to the indictment Patek was involved in assembling the bombs for the Bali attacks and strikes on churches in Jakarta on Christmas Eve of 2000.
Patek allegedly used simple household tools including a rice ladle to assemble the Bali bombs, which were placed in ordinary filing cabinets, according to Suharyadi and details contained in the indictment.
Patek is also wanted in the Philippines, where he allegedly plotted attacks with militants after escaping the Indonesian dragnet.
He is believed to be indirectly associated with Indonesian terror suspect Hambali, who is in US custody at Guantanamo Bay, and radical Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, who was jailed last June for funding terrorism.
Patek’s trial, which began last Monday, is expected to last at least four months.

AFP

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