Speeding up the execution of three Indonesian militants on death row for the 2002 Bali blasts could provoke a backlash and trigger more attacks, the police officer who probed the bombings said on Tuesday.
Residents on the resort island, incensed at the latest suicide bombings on Oct. 1 that killed 20 people, have staged nearly daily protests in the past week demanding the three be executed immediately before their appeals have run out.
Last week, hundreds of protesters stormed a jail where many of those convicted over the 2002 attacks are serving time.
But Bali police chief Made Mangku Pastika said protesters should think twice about the possible consequences of putting Imam Samudra, Amrozi and Ali Gufron, alias Mukhlas, in front of the firing squad too soon.
“I understand the demands of the Balinese to have a speedy execution of Amrozi and his friends. But have they thought about the repercussions?” Pastika, himself a Balinese, told reporters in the island’s capital Denpasar.
“Terrorism could increase. This is what we need to consider and are we ready to face it?” said Pastika, who led the 2002 bombing probe and was later installed as Bali’s top policeman.
The three have been on death row for around two years after courts convicted them of playing leading roles in the nightclub bombings that killed 202 people, most of them tourists.
Some political analysts have said their execution could make them martyrs in the eyes of Indonesia’s militant fringe and a tool for recruitment.
Appeals nearly exhausted
Citing security concerns, authorities moved the three militants from their Bali jail just a day before it was attacked by protesters last week. They are now on a prison island off Java. Their appeals have almost been exhausted.
Asked about a lack of success in cracking the Oct. 1 blasts, Pastika said there had been little public input in identifying three suicide bombers whose sketches have been distributed across the world’s most populous Muslim country.
Pastika said the men who strolled into three restaurants wearing backpacks laden with explosives were believed to be Indonesian. Police have not identified them.
“From their facial features, they were Indonesians, not Filipinos or Thais. The question is with such clear pictures why has nobody recognized any of them?” Pastika said.
“Their families ... probably are afraid or ashamed but how about their neighbors? How come, with more than 200 million Indonesians, nobody knows these three people?”
Police caught Amrozi, the first militant arrested over the 2002 bombings, a month after finding leads from the remnants of the car bomb used.
In the latest investigation, police have detained several people but most have been released for lack of evidence. Hundreds of people have been questioned.