Australia PM says reduction of Bali bomber’s sentence upsetting

Prime Minister Albanese says the potential release of Umar Patek jailed over the deadly 2002 blasts will further ‘distress’ Australians.

Australia’s newly elected Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says Indonesia’s decision to further reduce the prison sentence of a man for his role in the 2002 Bali bombing, which could free him within days if he is granted parole, is upsetting.

Umar Patek was handed a 20-year jail sentence by an Indonesian court in 2012 after he was found guilty in connection with the blasts that ripped through two Bali nightclubs, killing 202 people, including 88 Australians.

The most recent reduction of Patek’s sentence takes his total reduction to almost two years and means Patek, a member of the al-Qaeda-linked armed group Jemaah Islamiyah, could be released on parole ahead of the 20th anniversary of Indonesia’s deadliest bombings in October.

“This will cause further distress to Australians who were the families of victims of the Bali bombings,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told broadcaster Channel 9 on Friday. “We lost 88 Australian lives in those bombings.”

Albanese said he would continue making “diplomatic representations” to Indonesia about Patek’s sentence and a range of other issues, including Australians currently jailed in Indonesia. Albanese described Patek as “abhorrent”.

“His actions were the actions of a terrorist,” Albanese told Channel 9. ”They did have such dreadful results for Australian families that are ongoing, the trauma which is there.”

Schoolchildren light candles during a memorial service for the victims of the 2002 Bali bombings to mark the 17th anniversary of the attacks, at the Bali Bombing Memorial in Kuta near Denpasar on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali on October 12, 2019 [File: Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP]

Indonesia often grants sentence reductions to prisoners on important holidays such as the nation’s Independence Day, which was Wednesday.

Patek received a five-month reduction on Independence Day for good behaviour and could walk free this month from Porong Prison in East Java province if he gets parole, said Zaeroji, who heads the provincial office for the Ministry of Law and Human Rights.

Zaeroji, who goes by a single name, said Patek had the same rights as other inmates and had fulfilled legal requirements to get sentence reductions.

“While in the prison, he behaved very well and he regrets his radical past which has harmed society and the country and he has also pledged to be a good citizen,” Zaeroji said.

Patek was arrested in Pakistan in 2011 and tried in Indonesia, where he was convicted in 2012.

With his time served plus sentence reductions, he became eligible for parole on August 14. The decision from the Ministry of Law and Human Rights in Jakarta is still pending, Zaeroji said. If refused parole, he could remain jailed until 2029.

Patek was one of several men implicated in the attack, which was widely blamed on Jemaah Islamiyah. Most of those killed in the bombing on the resort island were foreign tourists.

Another conspirator, Ali Imron, was sentenced to life imprisonment. Earlier this year, a third man involved, Aris Sumarsono (whose real name is Arif Sunarso but is better known as Zulkarnaen) was sentenced to 15 years following his capture in 2020 after 18 years on the run.

Jan Laczynski, a survivor of the bombings, told Channel 9 that many Australians will be “devastated” by Patek’s potential release. “This guy should not be going out unsupervised, unmonitored,” he said.

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