New Delhi: Despite objections by Australia and several organizations in Indonesia, an Islamic militant convicted of making the explosives used in the series of Bali Bombing in 2002 that killed over 200 people (primarily Australian tourists) was paroled last week after serving about half of his original 20-year prison sentence.
Hisyam bin Alizein, also known by his alias Umar Patek, was a leading member of the al-Qaeda-linked network Jemaah Islamiyah, blamed for the blasts at two nightclubs in Kuta Beach.
A.P. news agency said that Patek was found guilty by the West Jakarta District Court of helping build a car bomb that another person outside the Sari Club detonated in Kuta on October 12, 2002.
The bomb attacks killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists, including 88 Australians, 23 UK citizens and several other western tourists from other countries, who were inside the busy nightclub Paddy's Bar, in Kuta on the island of Bali on 12 October 2002.
A second explosion followed, caused by a homemade bomb in a vehicle outside the Sari Club. About 10km away another bomb placed in front of the US consulate in Denpasar was detonated remotely. People around the world were shocked by the brutal act in an area popular with tourists.
Indonesian authorities said Umer Patek, 55, was reformed in prison, and they will use him to influence other militants to turn away from terrorism. Patek is still being monitored and will have to participate in a mentoring program until his parole ends on April 29, 2030.
A.P. news agency quoting Patek said, “I apologize not only to the people in Bali in particular, but I also apologize to all Indonesian people,” Patek told reporters while visiting former militant Ali Fauzi, a long-time friend who runs a program aimed at deradicalizing militants in East Java’s Tenggulun village.
“I also sincerely apologize especially to the Australians who also experienced a very great impact from the Bali bombing crime,” Patek said. “I also apologize to the victims and their families at home and abroad; whatever their nationality, ethnicity, or religion, I sincerely apologize to all of them.”
In August, Patek’s early release sparked outrage in Australia
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described him as “abhorrent” and said his freedom would cause further distress to Australians who endured the trauma of the bombings.
Australia’s objection prompted President Joko Widodo’s administration to delay Patek’s release while Indonesia hosted the Group of 20 or G20 summit.
Patek, after the bombing, left Bali just and spent nine years on the run that took him from Indonesia to the Philippines to Pakistan.
In the southern Philippines, officials said he had joined forces with the local extremist Group Abu Sayyaf, spending several years training militants and plotting attacks, including against U.S. troops in the country.
Patek was caught in Pakistan, where he got trained in bomb-making
The news agency said that Umar Patek was captured in January 2011 in the same Pakistani town where U.S. Navy Seals would kill Osama bin Laden just a few months later.
Patek was hiding out in a second-floor room of a house in Abbottabad, a $1 million bounty on his head, when Pakistani security forces, acting on a tip from the CIA, burst in.
After his arrest, Patek told interrogators that he learned to make bombs during a 1991-1994 stint in Pakistan and later in Afghanistan.
He was then deported to Indonesia. There, the kindness of police officers who helped get him medical treatment apparently began to chip away at his convictions about people he had long seen as the enemy.
Patek said he was committed to helping the government with deradicalization programs “so that they can fully understand the dangers of terrorism and the dangers of radicalism.”
Ali Fauzi’s brothers Amrozi bin Nurhasyim and Ali Ghufron, who often went by alias Mukhlas, and Ali Imron were also convicted in the attack. Amrozi and Mukhlas, along with a third bomber, Imam Samudra, were executed in 2008.
Fauzi found himself on a police wanted list, although he was on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi when he received word of the carnage. Fauzi was never charged with the bombings, but he spent months in police detention in Jakarta.
Another bomber, Ali Imron, was spared execution and sentenced to life in prison after showing remorse and divulging the plot to investigators.
The Bali bombing remains J.I.’s most deadly attack. However, there have been several others since none were as fatal. More than 2,500 militants between 2000 and 2021 were arrested, including the death of several key leaders in police action.