A bombmaker in the 2002 Bali attacks that killed 202 people has been released from an Indonesian prison on parole after serving half of his 20-year sentence, despite the opposition of Australia’s prime minister, who described him as “abhorrent”.
Umar Patek was a leading member of the al Qaida-linked network Jemaah Islamiyah, which is blamed for the bombings at two nightclubs in Kuta Beach.
Indonesian authorities said he has been successfully reformed in prison and they will use him to influence other militants to turn away from terrorism.
Patek, 55, whose real name is Hisyam bin Alizein, received a total of 33 months of sentence reductions, which are often given to prisoners on major holidays for good behaviour, said Rika Aprianti, spokeswoman for the Corrections Department at the Justice Ministry.
Most recently, he was granted a five-month reduction on August 17, Indonesia’s Independence Day. That meant he has fulfilled the parole requirement of serving two-thirds of his current sentence, she said.
The attacks killed 202 people — mostly foreign tourists — including 88 Australians, leaving a deep scar in that country.
Ms Aprianti said authorities will monitor Patek and he will have to take part in a mentoring programme until his parole ends on April 29 2030.
She said he was escorted by the national police counterterrorism squad, known as Densus 88, when he left Porong prison in East Java province on Wednesday morning to return to his family’s home in Surabaya, the provincial capital.
“If he makes any violations during his parole period… then he will return to his cell,” she said.
News in August of his expected early release sparked outrage in Australia.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described Patek as “abhorrent” and said his release would cause further distress to Australians who were affected by the bombings.
Mr Albanese said he would make “diplomatic representations” to Indonesia about Patek’s sentence.
Australia’s objection prompted President Joko Widodo’s administration to delay Patek’s release while Indonesia hosted a meeting of the leaders of the G20 nations, including Mr Albanese, in Bali in November.
Patek was sentenced to 20 years in prison a decade after the bombing. He left Bali just before the attacks and spent nine years on the run, during which he was considered one of Asia’s most wanted terror suspects.
Patek expressed remorse during his trial, saying he helped make the bombs but did not know how they would be used. He has apologised to the victims’ families, Christians and the government.
He told reporters while attending an independence ceremony in August that he was committed to helping the government with deradicalisation programmes “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 Zulkarnaen, the former military commander of Jemaah Islamiyah, to 15 years in jail for hiding information about the Bali bombings from authorities and harbouring other suspects. He had eluded capture for 18 years.
Indonesia executed three Islamic militants by firing squad at Nusakambangan prison in November 2008 for involvement in the Bali bombings. Imam Samudra, Amrozi bin Nurhasyim and his brother Mukhlas never expressed remorse, saying the bombings were meant to punish the US and its western allies for alleged atrocities in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Another bomber, Ali Imron, was saved from execution after showing remorse and divulging the plot to investigators and was sentenced to life.