According to the detik.com news-service, convicted bomber Ali Imron, 33, was accompanied on Wednesday by Brig Gen Gorries Mere, the head of a secret national police unit hunting for bombs believed to have been manufactured in the Indonesian capitol.
The report has since been independently confirmed.
There have been unconfirmed reports over the past two months of armed fighters infiltrating Indonesia from bases in the neighbouring Philippines intent on assassinating foreign businesspeople and prominent citizens.
Indonesia is about to embark on the third and final phase of a six-month-long series of legislative and presidential elections with a national ballot on 20 September. Thus far, the elections have been peaceful.
Brigadier General Mere spearheads the special unit that it trying to uncover the safehouse where additional bombs are believed to have been constructed.
Whatever it takes
Imron is the only member of the inner circle of the Bali plot who has expressed remorse for the nightclub bombing and cooperated with police in the past.
“Gorries one of the best cops in the country,” a Western intelligence source said.
“The real story is that they believe Imron can help them find those other bombs. They’ll do whatever it takes to get his help and if that means taking him to Starbucks, then that’s what they’ll do.”
Officials found a common thread
When approached by the detik.com journalist and a reporter from the respected daily newspaper Tempo shortly after 7 pm local time, the three men ducked into a nearby Hard Rock cafe outlet.
Gorries, who is known for his unconventional approaches, batted away the inquiries.
After repeated questions, detik.com reported Imron saying: “I often walk with Mr Gorris.”
The two were accompanied by celebrity psychologist Dr Sarlito Wirawan Sarwono, and at least one armed uncover officer according to the news service.
The doctor could not be reached for comment. A police spokesman refused comment.
The warden at the Bali jail where Imron is said to be incarcerated confirmed he had been taken to Jakarta, “to assist an investigation”.
Three other men, including Imron’s elder brothers Amrozi and Ali Ghufron (alias Mukhlas), remain on death row in the same prison, warden Tulus Widjajanto said.
Over 200 people, including many foreign tourists and at least 60 Indonesian citizens, were killed when two bombs exploded in the bustling nightclub district of the resort island in October 2002. Hundreds were injured.
Abu Bakar Bashir denies any role
More than three dozen men have been convicted for their roles in the Bali bombing and that of the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta in August 2003 that claimed 12 lives.
All are said to belong to a shadowy al Qaida-affiliated group known as Jemaah Islamiyah, which has also been tied to bombings of Western restaurants and dozens of churches across the sprawling archipelago nation.
Among those arrested is the alleged spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, Abu Bakar Bashir. Bashir is awaiting trial on charges related to the Marriott bombing and membership in an armed organisation.
The preacher from Central Java has argued that he is the victim of a complicated Western-Zionist conspiracy.
Many of those arrested in connection with the wave of bombings in Indonesia that began Christmas Eve 2000 graduated from Islamic boarding schools Bashir ran in Indonesia and Malaysia.
“Something is not right when you can find a convict like Ali Imron sitting having coffee with the chief of police in Plaza Indonesia on a Wednesday night”
Adnan Wirawan, lawyer for Abu Bakr Bashir, detained spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah
Bashir’s lawyer says Ali Imron’s Starbucks outing brings the whole Indonesian justice system into disrepute. “Before the Western countries and the international community, our judicial and policing system sucks, and I use the American term here,” Adnan Wirawan said.
“Something is not right when you can find a convict like Ali Imron sitting having coffee with the chief of police in Plaza Indonesia on a Wednesday night. How can anyone believe what this guy says when they see how they treat him?”
The central Jakarta mall where Imron was spotted is normally ringed with heavily armed police officers checking bags at the doors. All vehicles are inspected before they enter the mall.