Indonesia cleric warns of big disaster if bombers executed
CILACAP, Indonesia Dec 15 (Reuters) - A controversial Indonesian Muslim cleric warned on Saturday that the country would suffer a big disaster if three Bali bombers on death row were executed.
Abu Bakar Bashir, accused by some foreign governments of once heading the Jemaah Islamiah militant group, spoke before visiting the three Islamic militants awaiting execution for their role in the 2002 nightclub bombings on the resort island.
"I'm worried if they were executed there would be a big disaster," Bashir told reporters on the way to Nusakambangan, an island prison complex off the southern coast of Java where the three are being held. Bashir said he wanted to advise the convicts -- Amrozi, Imam Samudra and Mukhlas -- to be patient and to seek God's forgiveness for their wrongdoing.
"It is true they were defending Muslims but their methods were wrong. That is why they are now fasting to pay for the loss of innocent lives," Bashir said. He did not say if the innocent lives included those of foreign holidaymakers, the majority of 202 people who died in the attack.
In an interview with Reuters in October, the three militants said they had no regrets, except for the fact that some Muslims had died in the blasts.
No date for the execution of the three Bali bombers has been set although the Supreme Court has rejected their final appeal.
The Bali bombings and several other deadly attacks have been blamed on militants from Jemaah Islamiah, of which Bashir was alleged to have been the spiritual leader and co-founder. Bashir was jailed for 30 months for conspiracy over the Bali bombings but was later cleared.
Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous country, with about 85 percent of its more than 220 million population following Islam.
While the vast majority of Indonesia's Muslims are moderate, the country has seen the emergence of an increasingly vocal militant minority.
Although there has been no major bomb attack since 2005, police say Indonesia still faces a considerable threat from Islamic militants. (Writing by Ahmad Pathoni; editing by Roger Crabb)