Thousands of people packed the burial processions of the three Bali bombers amid tight security Sunday, with critics slamming the government for allowing public sympathy for the executed terrorists to boil over.
The executions of Amrozi and his brother Ali Ghufron, alias Mukhlas, and Imam Samudra were carried out after a series of delays that gave militants the opportunity to publicly voice their sympathy and stage rallies in support of the men.
The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the country's largest Muslim organization, denounced the three bombers as nothing but terrorists.
"They didn't die as syuhada (martyrs). Those who kill others can never die as martyrs unless they are at war in the name of religion. But we are not at war so we must not kill others," said MUI chairman Umar Shihab.
Critics blamed the increased support for the three terrorists on the government's months of indecisiveness, sympathetic media coverage and politicizing of the issue by certain groups.
"It's all the government's fault. First, it announced it would execute the three men soon, but then delayed it several times, allowing for wide media exposure that played up these men's toughness and persistence," said political expert Fachry Ali.
The time given by the government, he went on, allowed TV stations, which viewed the upcoming executions as a highly profitable event, to broadcast details of the bombers' activities and opinions -- including their rejection of government help, their isolation cells, and their books -- for weeks on a hourly basis.
This garnered sympathy not only from Muslim radicals but also from those who had initially denounced them, Fachry added.
"And the government remained silent and made no counter arguments against such arousals of sympathy for the bombers. The most dangerous impact is it allowed massive mobilization of people to their burial sites and once again invited huge TV coverage for them," he said.
Setara Institute director Hendardi blasted the executions as mere politicking, saying it was a stunt to show off President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's tough stance against terrorism.
"But the aftermath of the executions proves otherwise -- rather than acting as a deterrent against terrorist attacks, it instead creates sympathy," he said.
Amrozi, 47, Mukhlas, 48, and Imam Samudra, 38, were executed by firing squad shortly after midnight early Sunday near their prison on Nusakambangan Island for their roles in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.
The terrorists refused to be blindfolded before being shot, and cooperated fully with the firing squads, said Attorney General's Office spokesman Jasman Panjaitan.
"They were very cooperative and did not resistance at all. The families were also cooperative and sincere," he said.
A crowd burst into tears and shouts of "Allahu Akbar!" (God is great) at the sight of two black crows over Tenggulun village in Lamongan, East Java as a helicopter carrying the bodies of Amrozi and Mukhlas landed in a nearby field. Many there believed the birds were "sent from heaven to take the men's souls".
"God is great, God is great! God is showing his greatness. I'm so happy," a supporter, sobbing uncontrollably at the sight of the birds, was quoted as screaming by AFP.
Similar religious fervor and grief were on show in Imam Samudra's hometown of Serang, Banten.
Additional reporting by Agus Maryono in Cilacap and Indra Harsaputra in Tenggulun
A detailed account of how the bombers were executed
Wednesday, November 5: the three convicted bombers are informed they will be executed within three days.
Friday, November 7: The bombers are put in isolation cells.
Sunday, November 9, 12:15 am: After being tied to posts and offered blindfolds, which they refuse, the bombers are shot in their hearts by police firing squads.
1:00 am: The men's bodies are brought to a clinic for autopsies, after being declared dead at the execution site.
5:45 am: Prosecutors hand the bodies over to helicopter crews to deliver them to their home villages in East Java and Banten.
Source: Attorney General's Office