The man convicted of making the explosives used in the 2002 Bali bombings walked free from Porong Prison in East Java yesterday, despite strong objections by the government of Australia.
Hisyam bin Alizein, 55, better known by his alias Umar Patek, was in 2012 sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for his involvement in the bombings on the Sari Club and Paddy’s Pub nightclub in Kuta on October 12, 2002, which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians. Specifically, he was found guilty of helping build a car bomb used in the attack.
As Rika Aprianti, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, told reporters yesterday, “Since today, Patek has his status changed to be under the supervision of Surabaya penitentiary.”
Once a leading member of the al-Qaida-linked militant network Jemaah Islamiyah, which was believed responsible for several terrorist bombings in Indonesia in the early 2000s, Patek became eligible for parole after a series of remissions for good behavior, which reduced his sentence by a total of 33 months. The most recent of these came in August, when Patek was granted a sentence reduction on Indonesia’s Independence Day.
Later that month, he became eligible for parole, prompting outrage in Australia. In a television interview that month, 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 attack. “His actions were the actions of a terrorist,” Albanese said, adding that he would continue making “diplomatic representations” to Indonesia about the decision to grant Patek parole.
For their own part, the Indonesian authorities claim that Patek has undergone a program for reforming convicted extremists, and will be used to help deradicalize other young militants. Aprianti said that Patek will be closely monitored and will be required to participate in a mentoring program until his parole ends on April 29, 2030.
Patek has long affected regret for his role in the bombings, and said earlier this year that he “disagreed” with the plan to bomb two nightclubs. “My mistake was to be involved with the Bali bombing,” he said in a bizarre “interview” with Jalu Yuswa Panjang, the governor of Porong Prison, that was posted briefly to the prison’s YouTube page in August. “I told them I was against it. But they were 95 percent done with the project.”
He added, “Nine-hundred-and-fifty kilograms of explosives were packed and ready, and they insisted on going ahead with it.”
After the bombings, Patek spent years on the run before his eventual arrest 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. He was subsequently extradited to Indonesia, where he was convicted on six charges, including murder and bomb-making, related to both the Bali attacks and a spate of church attacks on Christmas Eve 2000.