Umar Patek’s Dubious Defense

Recent Features


Umar Patek’s Dubious Defense

Umar Patek, last of the Bali bombers, offers an unconvincing defense as he tries to avoid a life sentence.

Umar Patek, the last of the Bali bombers, says he’s sorry about the 2002 Bali bombing, which left more than 200 people dead.

Patek says he tried to talk the Jemaah Islamiyah  leadership out of slaughtering bule, or white people, and that he only fully appreciated the full scale of the pending carnage when asked to help mix the chemicals needed to make the bomb, a skill he had learned in the Mujahideen camps of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Dubbed the Demolition Man by his religious peers, Patek had chalked up more than a decade of experience among the hotbeds of Islamic terror campaigns and was, according to prosecutors, also responsible for the Christmas Eve bombing of churches across Indonesia in 2000.

Prosecutors are demanding a life sentence, while his lawyers argue the only crime their 45-year-old client is guilty of is…passport fraud. This was because Patek said he was sorry for the Bali bombings and had never really wanted to be a part of the carnage, once he had mixed the chemicals.

The defense is extraordinary. His team also claims that because he says he had no intention of harming anyone, he couldn’t be responsible for the bombing. He had remained in Bali when the bombs were detonated only because he had barely a dollar on him and couldn’t afford to leave.

If what Patek says is true, then could he please explain why he didn’t call the police, the military, a friend, a friendly Imam, someone who could have acted to stop the bombs from ripping through two nightclubs along the Kuta-Legian strip?

He had plenty of time. And he says one of his arguments put to Imam Samudra – executed in 2009 for his role in the bombings – was that Muslims would also be killed. Still, Samudra refused to budge and Patek declined to call the police.

The argument that Patek is innocent because he didn’t deliberately take part in the kill is lame, at best. In summing up, the prosecution argued Patek was a terrorist and a murderer who held close links with international terrorist organizations. Patek was arrested early last year in Pakistan, not far from where al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was shot dead by U.S. Special Forces a few months later in May.

To be fair, Patek has repented, cooperated with the authorities and asked Muslims to renounce violence in Indonesia, although he did add that Palestine remained an ideal venue for jihad. This was far more than any of the other JI bombers, who are either in jail or went to the gallows, had to offer.

With that in mind, prosecutors have asked for life in prison, as opposed to the death sentence. Given Umar Patek’s style of apology, that might be lenience enough.