Paroled Indonesia bombmaker apologises for 2002 Bali attack

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An Indonesian militant who was paroled last week after serving about half of his original 20-year prison sentence for making the explosives used in the 2002 Bali bombings, on Tuesday apologised to victims’ families.

Hisyam bin Alizein, better known by his nom de guerre 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 that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists, including 88 Australians.

“I apologise not only to the people in Bali in particular, but I also apologise to all Indonesian people,” Patek told reporters while visiting former militant Ali Fauzi, a long-time friend who runs a scheme aimed at deradicalising militants in East Java’s Tenggulun village.

“I also sincerely apologise especially to the Australians who also experienced a very great impact from the Bali bombing crime,” Patek said.

Indonesia Bali Bomber Released
Umar Patek during his trial in Jakarta in 2012 (Tatan Syuflana/AP)

Wearing a grey shirt and Javanese traditional headgear, Patek received a warm welcome from his old friends, some of whom were former convicts who joined the deradicalisation scheme headed by Fauzi.

Indonesian authorities have said Patek was successfully reformed in prison and they will use him to influence other militants to turn away from terrorism.

Patek is still being monitored and will have to take part in a mentoring programme until his parole ends on April 29, 2030.

News in August of Patek’s impending early release sparked outrage in Australia.

Prime minister Anthony Albanese described him as “abhorrent” and said his freedom would cause further distress to Australians who endured the trauma of the bombings.

Indonesia Bali Bomber Released
The ruins of a nightclub destroyed by a bomb blast in Kuta, Bali in 2002 (AP)

Patek left Bali just before the attacks and spent nine years on the run that took him from Indonesia to the Philippines to Pakistan.

In the southern Philippines, officials said he had joined forces with the local extremist group Abu Sayyaf, spending several years training militants and plotting attacks, including against US troops in the country.

He was finally caught in January 2011 in the same Pakistani town where the US navy would kill Osama bin Laden just a few months later.

He was then extradited to Indonesia. It was there that the kindness of police officers who helped get him medical treatment apparently began to chip away at his convictions about people he had long seen as the enemy.

He expressed remorse at his trial, saying he helped make the bombs but did not know how they would be used. He also issued broad apologies, including to the victims’ families, at that time.

Fauzi’s brothers Amrozi bin Nurhasyim and Ali Ghufron, who often went by the alias Mukhlas, and Ali Imron were also convicted over the attack.

Amrozi and Mukhlas, along with a third bomber, Imam Samudra, were executed in 2008.

They never expressed remorse, saying the bombings were meant to punish the US and its western allies for alleged atrocities in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

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