Lord of the prison: how Bali bomber Samudra reigns behind bars

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 September, 2006, 12:00am

'He is regarded as a holy warrior and respected as a Muslim preacher'

Imam Samudra continues to wield extensive power from the Indonesian jail cell where he is on death row for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings, using book royalties and a smuggled laptop to reach out to religious warriors, security sources say.

They say Samudra, 36, lords over the prison system, bolstered by his reputation as a holy warrior who trained in Afghanistan and orchestrated the attack which killed 202 people, including 11 from Hong Kong. Even the most hardened of inmates fear him, they say.

'Samudra's inmates are in awe of him,' an anti-terror official said. 'He is regarded as a holy warrior and respected as a Muslim preacher. Whatever Samudra requested, the inmates gave him.'

Sources said he also has access to funds, including royalties from his sold-out book Me Against the Terrorist, released in 2004.

'Samudra's books sold many copies and he receives royalties from them. He also has many sympathisers who are willing to donate money to his cause,' said the officer.

Samudra is waiting the outcome of an appeal against execution by firing squad, a process which could take a year. But as he sits on death row, he has not wasted time.

Anti-terror officers last week revealed that Samudra had recruited young people to his cause by using internet chat rooms.

He used a wireless laptop smuggled into his cell in Kerobokan prison in Bali with the help of a prison guard last year.

The discovery came following the arrest of two men, computer hacker Mohammad Agung Prabowo and Agung Setyadi, a university lecturer, in Central Java two weeks ago.

Police have named the prison guard who helped bring Samudra the computer as Beni Irawan, who is being interrogated over Samudra's access to the computer.

The Justice Department, which is in charge of the country's prisons, acknowledged the incident. 'The incident of the laptop is true. The prison guard is being investigated,' said Djoko Sasongko, spokesman for the Justice Department.

The case highlights the lax security conditions in Indonesian prisons which makes it easy for militants, like Samudra, as well as criminals, to gain access to mobile phones and computers to carry out their jihads and criminal activities.

'In Kerobokan jail, criminals and Samudra had access to mobile phones and computers which they used to communicate to the outside world without any limitations,' the officer said.

Add to that, prison guards are susceptible to bribes as they are poorly paid.

'Prison guards ... struggle to survive. Their salary is the bare minimum. When people give them 'tips', they are usually grateful and tend to do their bidding. This is a big problem.'

Investigations have revealed that Samudra's Bali cell mate also owned a laptop.

'This was the first laptop which Samudra used to cyber-chat and recruit people. Samudra used his cell mate's laptop before he got his own,' the officer said.

Through the internet, Samudra recruited Agung Setyadi and Agung Prabowo.

When police raided Agung's laboratory in the university, they discovered messages saved from a chat room which taunted the police over last year's (the second) Bali bombings.

One of the messages read: 'Congratulations over the success of the second Bali bombings. The police are stupid! Imam Samudra commands the bombing from the jail.'

Police are trying to identify the origins of the messages. 'We don't know who wrote the messages. We are still investigating whether Samudra was involved in the second Bali bombings,' the officer said.

Police are also hunting for the two missing laptops.

Samudra was held at Kerobokan prison after his arrest in 2002. He was moved to Nusakambangan jail, off the south coast of Central Java, in October last year.