An Islamic militant convicted of making the explosives used in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed over 200 people was paroled Wednesday — after serving about half of his original 20-year prison sentence — despite strong objections by Australia, which lost scores of citizens in the Indonesian attacks.
Hisyam bin Alizein, also known by his alias Umar Patek, was a leading member of the al-Qaida-linked network Jemaah Islamiyah, which was blamed for the blasts at two nightclubs in Kuta Beach.
Patek was found guilty by the West Jakarta District Court of helping build a car bomb that was detonated by another person outside the Sari Club in Kuta on the night of Oct. 12, 2002. Moments earlier, a smaller bomb in a backpack was detonated by a suicide bomber in the nearby Paddy’s Pub nightclub. The attacks killed 202 people — mostly foreign tourists — including 88 Australians.
Indonesian authorities have said Patek, 55, was successfully reformed in prison and they will use him to influence other militants to turn away from terrorism.
Patek received a series of sentence reductions, often given to prisoners on major holidays for good behavior, said Rika Aprianti, spokesperson for the Corrections Department at the Justice Ministry. Most recently, he was granted a five-month reduction on Aug. 17, Indonesia’s Independence Day.
Authorities will monitor Patek and he will have to participate in a mentoring program until his parole ends on April 29, 2030, Aprianti said.
Patek was escorted from Porong prison in East Java province by the National Police’s counterterrorism squad known as Densus 88 back to his family’s home in Surabaya, the provincial capital, she said.
“If he makes any violations during his parole period … then he will return to his cell,” Aprianti said.
Bombing survivor Peter Hughes told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. it was laughable for Patek to be released and fanciful to think he had been deradicalized.
“There’s no chance of him actually being turned around,” Hughes said.
He said he hoped the Australian government took a strong stance against the early release.
“We can’t change what the Indonesian government want to do their own people, but at least we could actually say something,” Hughes told the broadcaster. “I wouldn’t like it to be passive, I’d like it to be fairly heavy-handed.”
Lawmaker Chris Bowen told the broadcaster that Australians have “every right to be disappointed and concerned” by the development.
News in August of Patek’s expected early release sparked outrage in Australia.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described Patek as “abhorrent” and said his release would cause further distress to Australians who endured the trauma of the bombings.
“His actions were the actions of a terrorist,” Albanese told Channel 9 at the time. “We lost 88 Australian lives in those bombings.”
Australia’s objection prompted President Joko Widodo’s administration to delay Patek’s release while Indonesia hosted the Group of 20 summit meeting last month.
Patek left Bali just before the attacks and spent nine years on the run, during which he was considered one of Asia’s most-wanted terrorist suspects.
He expressed remorse at his trial, saying he helped make the bombs but did not know how they would be used. He has issued broad apologies, including to the victims’ families.
Patek said in August 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.”
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation and the third-biggest democracy, has imprisoned hundreds of Islamic militants since the Bali bombings.
In January, East Jakarta District Court sentenced Arif Sunarso, the former military commander of Jemaah Islamiyah, to 15 years for hiding information about the Bali bombings from authorities and harboring other suspects. Also known as Zulkarnaen, he had eluded capture for 18 years.
Indonesia executed three Islamic militants by firing squad at Nusakambangan prison in 2008 for involvement in the Bali bombings. The three, Imam Samudra, Amrozi bin Nurhasyim and his brother, Mukhlas, never expressed remorse, saying the bombings were meant to punish the U.S. and its Western allies for alleged atrocities in Afghanistan
Another bomber, Ali Imron, was spared execution and sentenced to life in prison after showing remorse and divulging the plot to investigators.