ASEAN Beat | Politics | Southeast Asia

Convicted Bali Bomber Says He ‘Disagreed’ With 2002 Attacks

In a YouTube video “interview” with the governor of prison in Central Java, the militant repeated long-standing claims of remorse.

Convicted Bali Bomber Says He ‘Disagreed’ With 2002 Attacks

Umar Patek, an Indonesian militant charged in the 2002 Bali terrorist attacks, left, sits with his lawyer during his trial in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, March 8, 2012.

Credit: AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana, File

The man convicted for making the bomb that destroyed two nightclubs in Bali in 2002 says his involvement in the attack was a “mistake,” on the eve of his reported release from prison.

Hisyam bin Alizein, 52, better known by his alias Umar Patek, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2012 for his involvement in the bombings, which killed 202 people. He became eligible for parole this month after a series of remissions for good behavior, though the exact date of his release remains at the discretion of the Indonesian minister of justice.

In a 20-minute video posted to the YouTube page of the Porong Prison in Central Java (since removed), Patek , a slight 52-year-old with hennaed beard and hair, engages in a strange interview with the prison governor in which he said he said he “disagreed” with the plan to bomb two nightclubs.

“My mistake was to be involved with the Bali bombing,” he tells governor Jalu Yuswa Panjang in the “interview,” according to a report by Australia’s ABC News. “I told them I was against it. But they were 95 percent done with the project.”

“Nine-hundred-and-fifty kilograms of explosives were packed and ready, and they insisted on going ahead with it.”

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“I didn’t come to Indonesia to join the Bali bomb project. Even when I found out about it I was so against it, I disagreed with it. I asked the others at the time, what were the reasons for the attack plan. There were no reasons.”

Patek was a leading member of Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian Islamic radical group linked to al-Qaida that carried out the bombings in Bali in October 2002. After more than nine years on the run, Patek was arrested by Pakistani authorities in Abbottabad in January 2011, just four months before al-Qaida founder and leader Osama bin Laden was killed during an American raid in the same city. (U.S. officials said at the time that Patek’s presence in Abbottabad was a coincidence.)

He was subsequently extradited to Indonesia, where he was convicted on six charges, including murder and bomb-making, including for involvement in a spate of church attacks on Christmas Eve 2000. During the trial, Patek apologized to victims’ families, asked the court for ”forgiveness,” and said he was against the attacks “from the start.”

On August 17, Patek was granted a sentence reduction after serving two-thirds of his sentence. Government officials said that he had undergone a program for reforming convicted extremists, and had pledged his loyalty to the Indonesian state. “He has dutifully undergone a deradicalization program and behaves well in the prison,” Wibowo said, according to The Guardian.

However, Patek’s long-stated remorse has done little to cool the outrage that has been boiling in Australia since news broke that the bomb-maker had been approved for parole, just weeks ahead of the 20th anniversary of the bombings. Eighty-eight Australians were among those killed in the Bali bombings, and his impending release has prompted outrage from the families of those killed in the attack, as well as from the Australian government.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described Patek as “abhorrent” and said his early release will cause further distress to Australians who were directly affected by the Bali bombings.

“His actions were the actions of a terrorist,” Albanese told Australia’s Channel 9 broadcaster earlier this month, adding that he would continue making “diplomatic representations” to Indonesia about the sentence. “We lost 88 Australian lives in those bombings,” he said.