Bali bomb maker claims involvement in 2002 attack a ‘mistake’

Pizaro Gozali Idrus and Nazaruddin Latief
Bali bomb maker claims involvement in 2002 attack a ‘mistake’ 2002 Bali bomb maker Umar Patek (right) receives his sentence reduction letter during a ceremony at the Porong Prison in Sidoarjo regency, East Java, Indonesia, in an image taken from an SCTV video, Aug. 17, 2022.

The convict who helped assemble the bombs used in the 2002 Bali bombings is claiming it was a “mistake” to be involved in Indonesia’s worst terror attack that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.

Indonesian bomb maker Umar Patek, who has completed at least half of a 20-year prison sentence and may be up for parole this month, made the remark in an interview with a prison official that was uploaded on YouTube on Saturday before being removed on Monday.

Counterterrorism officials have touted Umar as a deradicalization success story, but news of his impending release has outraged people and officials in neighboring Australia.

In an interview from inside the Porong Prison in Sidoarjo regency, East Java, Umar said that after his potential release, he hoped to educate Indonesian youths about the danger of religious extremism. 

“My mistake was to be involved with the Bali bombing,” Umar said in the video, about the Oct. 12, 2002 terror attack. 

Rika Aprianti, a spokeswoman for the Directorate General of Corrections at the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, declined to comment on the video while confirming Umar had regretted his actions. 

“One of the assessments is that the inmates, while serving their sentence, know that they have made a mistake and regret it,” Rika told BenarNews on Monday. 

Umar could be released this month after he received a five-month sentence reduction on Aug. 17, Indonesia’s 77th Independence Day.  Rika declined to provide exact information on when Umar may be freed. 

“The parole program is still in process,” she said. 

If parole is not granted, Umar could remain jailed until 2029, according to media reports. 

The Australian Embassy, which has raised concerns about the possible parole, declined to comment when contacted by BenarNews. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese recently said that Umar’s release would “cause further distress” to families of those killed in the bombings. 

Indonesian officials lift convicted terrorist Umar Patek after a flag ceremony marking National Awakening Day at the East Java prison, May 20, 2015. [BenarNews]

Umar, whose real name is Hisyam bin Ali Zein, was arrested in Pakistan in 2011 and tried in Indonesia. In 2012, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison instead of receiving the death penalty. 

Umar’s Filipina wife was granted Indonesian citizenship in 2019, with authorities at the time saying the move was a reward for his good behavior behind bars. 

“He is an example to fellow inmates both in terrorism and other cases, and also appeals to those outside to return to the right path,” Suhardi Alius, who was leader of the National Counterterrorism Agency, told BenarNews back then. 

Victim: Treat terrorists differently 

Thiolina Marpaung, a Bali bombing victim, said she did not want to see Umar released. 

“The government needs to review the remission and parole. Terrorist criminals should be [treated] differently from other criminals,” Thiolina told BenarNews. 

“As a survivor, I feel sad after reading the news. Because of his actions, many children in Bali became orphans and had to live without parents,” she said. 

Thiolina suffered serious eye injuries in the incident, which required a corneal transplant for her right eye. Shards of glass had also pierced her left eye and she must have her vision checked every two months. 

“The bombing tarnished Bali’s tourism. It became an unsafe tourist spot. At that time, the place looked like war remains,” she said. 

Rakyan Adibrata, Indonesia director of the International Association for Counterterrorism and Security Professionals, said Umar could have a positive impact because repentance is important. 

“The higher the position of ex-terrorist convicts, the better they are as a credible voice,” Rakyan told BenarNews, adding Umar succeeded in not returning to his “old world.” 

“The element of disengagement is strong, coming from the influence of his closest circle, which is family. The disengagement helped the internal deradicalization process so that they want to do anything for a ‘second chance.’”


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