CANBERRA, Australia – The Australian leader said on Friday it was heartbreaking that Indonesia had further reduced the prison sentence of the bomb maker in the Bali terror attack that killed 202 people – meaning the terrorist could be released within days if he is granted parole.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Indonesian authorities told him Umar Patek’s sentence had been reduced by a further five months, bringing his total reductions to almost two years.
This means Patek could be paroled before the 20th anniversary of the bombings in October.
“It will cause further distress to Australians who were the families of the victims of the Bali bombings,” Albanese told Channel 9. “We lost the lives of 88 Australians in these bombings.”
Albanese said he would continue to make “diplomatic representations” to Indonesia over Patek’s sentence and a range of other issues, including Australians currently imprisoned in Indonesia. Albanese described Patek as “obnoxious”.
“His actions were the actions of a terrorist,” Albanese told Channel 9. “They had such terrible results for Australian families who are suing each other, the trauma that is there.”
Indonesia often grants sentence reductions to prisoners on important holidays such as the nation’s Independence Day, which was Wednesday.
Patek received a 5-month reduction on Independence Day for good behavior and could be released from Porong prison in East Java province this month if granted parole, said Zaeroji, who heads the provincial office of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights.
Zaeroji, who goes by one name, said Patek had the same rights as other inmates and had met legal requirements to get sentence reductions. “While he was in prison, he behaved very well and he regrets his radical past which harmed society and the country and he also swore to be a good citizen,” Zaeroji said.
Patek was arrested in Pakistan in 2011 and tried in Indonesia, where he was convicted in 2012. He was originally sentenced to 20 years in prison.
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 parole is denied, he could remain in prison until 2029.
Patek was one of several men involved in the attack, which has been widely blamed on Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian militant group linked to al-Qaeda. Most of those killed in the bombing on the resort island were foreign tourists.
Another conspirator, Ali Imron, received a life sentence. Earlier this year a third activist, Aris Sumarsono, real name Arif Sunarso but better known as Zulkarnaen, was sentenced to 15 years after he was captured in 2020 after 18 years on the run.
Erik de Haart, a survivor of the bombings, said there was little the Australian government could do about Patek’s reduced sentence. He told Seven’s Sunrise that the time had passed.
“When you consider all the financial aid we’ve given (to Indonesia) over the years, with the disasters they’ve been through, they seem to keep rubbing our noses,” de Haart said.