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Relief and emptiness for Bali families

By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

Kuta beach memorial in 2002, Bali
Many still carry physical and emotional scars from the bombing

The executions of the Bali bombers have brought relief to some of the Australians whose lives were ravaged by the twin blasts on the Indonesian holiday island six years ago.

Australia bore the brunt of the attack - 88 of its citizens were killed, along with a long list of victims from Indonesia, the United Kingdom and a host of other countries, including the United States.

The savagery of October 12, 2002, thrust Australia to the frontline of international terrorism. An isolated and carefree nation suddenly became nervous and frightened.

Ultimate punishment

Australians woke to the news that Imam Samudra, Amrozi Nurhasyim and Ali Ghufron (Mukhlas) had been executed by firing squad.

It's not going to heal the unhealable wound. What it will do will close a chapter in my life
Brian Deegan

"I'm just relieved and glad it's finally all over. It's been a long time coming," said Erik de Haart, who was outside the Sari club in Bali's Kuta district when the bombs were detonated, killing six of his friends.

"There's also a sense of emptiness, really, as the executions won't bring the guys back. At least now we won't see the bombers' faces staring out at us every time we pick up a newspaper. People can and will move on," he told the BBC.

Brian Deegan, a magistrate in Adelaide who lost his son Josh in the bombings, said the executions had brought "a whole lot of mixed emotions".

"It's not going to heal the unhealable wound," he said. "What it will do will close a chapter in my life."

"Six years of being asked questions. Six years of perhaps intrusion upon my life. Six years of having to witness the faces of these men who murdered Josh."

Some survivors of Bali were badly hurt, their scars - both mental and physical - daily reminders of that terrible night in 2002.

Kuta beach memorial in 2003
Australians continue to commemorate the victims

Peter Hughes, from Perth, Western Australia, suffered burns to more than half his body after the blast at Paddy's Bar in Kuta.

While generally not an advocate of the death penalty, he believes the crimes committed by the bombers were so atrocious they deserved to suffer ultimate punishment.

"These guys set about mass murder. They meant to do what they wanted to do," Mr Hughes told Australian radio.

"They killed a lot of people and they injured many others and I know a lot of the victims' families back here in Australia, their loved ones didn't come home, are suffering badly and I think it was very appropriate."

Others feel differently. In Sydney, Barbara Hackett has been absorbing overnight events at Nusakambangan, the Indonesian prison island where the three convicted bombers were shot.

Her daughter Kathy was killed in the Kuta explosions but despite her grief and anger, she does not support the death penalty.

"It can't bring back Kathy or the other 201 victims," she said.

Moratorium

The Australian government has urged travellers not to visit Indonesia at such a sensitive time, insisting that it continues to "to receive credible information that terrorists could be planning attacks".

It's not a day that fills us with any joy
Stephen Smith, Foreign Minister

Bali was again targeted by extremists in 2005 and several Australians were among the casualties.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said the executions of the Islamic militants responsible for the deaths of so many innocent people in October 2002 were no cause for celebration.

"It's not a day that fills us with any joy," he said on Australia's ABC Television. "My first thoughts are for the families of the victims of both the Bali bombings, it's just in my view a terrible reminder of a terrible, horrible event that occurred to family members."

The Australian government has opposed the death penalty and will press for an international moratorium on capital punishment.

Diplomatic and public attention will now shift to the fate of three young Australians - Scott Rush, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan - who have been sentenced to death for drug trafficking in Indonesia.

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