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Indonesian court to rule on Bali bombing suspect

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[June 21, 2012]  JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- Scores of police surrounded a Jakarta courthouse as judges read details of their ruling Thursday on a terror suspect known as "demolition man" who is accused of helping to build the car bomb used in the 2002 Bali nightclub attacks.

Prosecutors have sought a life sentence for militant Umar Patek, 45, a leading member of the al-Qaida-linked network Jemaah Islamiyah, and a verdict was expected later Thursday.

He is accused of illegal weapons possession, concealing terrorist acts, immigration violations and premeditated murder in the bombings that killed 202 people on the resort island. Most of the victims were foreign tourists, including 88 Australians and seven Americans.

More than 240 police, including a team of snipers, were deployed in and around the court building Thursday for the last session of Patek's trial, which began in February. Several sharp shooters were seen atop nearby buildings.

Judges took turns reading lengthy documents summing up the trial ahead of their expected verdict and sentencing. Except for a few relatives, the courtroom was packed mostly by reporters, photographers and cameramen instead of the defendant's supporters. His Filipino wife, Ruqayyah binti Husein Luceno, 28, was sentenced in January to 27 months in jail for immigration violations.

Patek, who was arrested last year in Pakistan in the same northwestern town where Osama bin Laden was killed several months later, was the last main suspect to be tried in the attacks. He has argued that he did not play a major part in building the car bomb, which was the biggest explosive used in the attacks. Instead, he said bomb-making masterminds Azahari bin Husin and Dulmatin were in charge of that job. Both have since died in police raids.

Patek, whose real name is Hisyam bin Alizein, has apologized to the victims' families, Christians and to the government, saying he was not in favor of going through with the attack against partying tourists, but that he could not speak out against other senior members of the group. The mission was supposedly meant to avenge Western policies in the Palestinian territories, but Patek has argued that he never saw the connection.

Patek could face a maximum penalty of death by firing squad for various terror-related and criminal charges. Patek has said the life term prosecutors are seeking is too heavy a penalty and asked for a lighter sentence.

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Clad in a white cotton robe and matching pants, the defendant sat quietly for hours as the judges read out their 273-page ruling, which included testimony from Patek and more than 40 witnesses. Their verdict and sentencing was expected at the end.

The five-member judge panel at the West Jakarta District Court also deliberated over Patek's alleged involvement in other terror acts in the country, including church attacks on Christmas Eve 2000 in Jakarta that killed 19.

But the Bali bombings marked Indonesia's deadliest terror strike. On Saturday, Oct. 12, 2002, a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a nightclub jammed with tourists at popular Kuta beach, killing many instantly and forcing others to run outside. Another suicide bomber detonated the massive bomb loaded in the car parked on the street in front of two clubs.

Patek has admitted he helped make the bombs, but said he did not know how they would be used. Prosecutors argued he helped assemble the suicide vests as well as detonating cords and boosters connected to the explosives.

He left Bali just before the attacks and spent nine years running from the law, traveling in the Philippines and Pakistan. He had a $1 million bounty on his head and was considered one of Asia's most wanted terror suspects.

Since the Bali bombings, Indonesia -- the world's most populous Muslim nation -- has been rocked by other attacks targeting restaurants, luxury hotels and a Western embassy. Security experts say those have all been less deadly partly because a crackdown on Jemaah Islamiyah has crushed its ranks.

[Associated Press; By NINIEK KARMINI]

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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