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Indonesia trial begins for Bali nightclub bombing suspect

The first trial of alleged Indonesia bomber Umar Patek began Monday in the West Jakarta District Court over his role in several terrorist plots including the Jakarta church bombings in 2000 and the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing [BBC backgrounder]. Patek was arrested [Jakarta Post report] in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011, just a few weeks before US special forces killed Osama Bin Laden [JURIST news archive] in the same town. If convicted Patek could face life imprisonment or a death sentence. Patek is not facing terrorism charges under Indonesia law, since the terrorism law came into effect in 2003 after both bombings and cannot be applied retrospectively [BBC News report]. Patek is believed to be a member of the alleged terrorist organization, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) [CFR backgrounder; JURIST news archive], which claimed responsibility for the Bali nightclub bombings. His trial is expected to last for months.

Patek was extradited to Indonesia [JURIST report] from Pakistan in August 2011. JI claimed responsibility for the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings, which killed 202 people and injured 240 others. JI was also implicated in the 2004 bombing of the US embassy in Jakarta and a series of further bombings in Bali in 2005. In 2010, the Obama administration considered bringing charges in a Washington, DC, federal court against the suspected planner [JURIST report] of the nightclub bombing, Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Riduan Isamuddin [BBC profile]. Isamuddin, also known as Hambali, is the former military commander of JI and was allegedly the main link between JI and al Qaeda [Global Security backgrounder; JURIST news archive] before his capture in 2003. In 2008, three JI members were executed [JURIST report] after being convicted by a Indonesia court for their involvement in those bombings. Before their executions, the three men had called on Islamic militant groups to carry out retribution attacks, which resulted in stepped-up security in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta and a warning issued by the US embassy in Indonesia.

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