JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia’s handling of the executions of three militants for the 2002 Bali bombings caused unnecessary suffering for victims of the blasts and helped fan domestic passions, Indonesian media said on Monday.
The three men from the militant Islamist group Jemaah Islamiah -- Imam Samudra, Mukhlas, and Amrozi -- were executed by firing squad on Sunday for the 2002 nightclub attacks that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians and 38 Indonesians.
Just days ahead of the executions, the bombers gave interviews to several television channels, often sounding defiant and calling for more attacks.
“The three terrorists most responsible for the carnage in Bali in October 2002 have finally been executed after months of uncertainty that turned the waiting into a public spectacle that only upset and infuriated relatives of the victims and prolonged their pain,” the Jakarta Post said in an editorial.
“The media, particularly television, seemed to be a willing partner throughout this whole spectacle, especially during the last four weeks while the authorities hesitated in carrying out the execution order,” the paper said.
It quoted political expert Fachry Ali as saying repeated delays in executing the three men had led to “wide media exposure that played up these men’s toughness and persistence.”
Indonesia had appeared set to execute the men earlier in the year but it was delayed until after the Muslim fasting month in September and then set for early in November.
The media had speculated that the executions were about to be carried out several times in recent weeks. A spokesman for the Attorney General’s office said on Saturday that the timing of executions was up to officials on the ground.
Passions ran high on Sunday as thousands of people, including many hardliners from Islamist groups, poured onto the streets for the funerals of the men in their home towns in Java.
Some analysts had warned of a hardline backlash but the funerals went off relatively peacefully, despite some scuffles with police and reporters.
Police were questioning two men detained over alleged bomb threats made ahead of the executions, national police spokesman Abubakar Nataprawira said.
There have been a string of threats made against hotels, Western embassies and government offices over the executions.
Indonesia’s Republika newspaper urged the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to continue its fight against Islamist militancy.
Since the 2002 Bali bombings, Indonesia has also won some plaudits for its battle against Muslim militants, including setting up a special police anti-terrorism unit called Detachment 88 and a “de-radicalization” programme used to persuade former militants to recant and preach non-violence to other militants.
The Koran Tempo newspaper said that police would now target Noordin Top, a Malaysian considered a key Jemaah Islamiah figure behind a series of bombings, who is still at large.
Although there have been no major bomb attacks since 2005, Indonesia is considered still at risk.
Reporting by Telly Nathalia; Editing by Ed Davies and Valerie Lee