Defense contends that Umar Patek was not part of the Bali terror plot, although he admits to manufacturing the explosives used.
Closeted away in a rented flat, he allegedly spent weeks manufacturing a massive bomb that was used in the 2002 Bali attacks. But Umar Patek and his lawyers say no one can prove he actually knew what his handiwork was going to be used for.
“Patek was invited by Imam Samudra [to mix the explosives] and he only took part in constructing the bombs. But actually Patek was not involved in the planning or its implementation,” attorney Asludin Hatjani told reporters outside the court.
Samudra, a university-educated computer expert described by police as the “field commander” of the Bali terrorists, was convicted in 2003 and executed by firing squad in November 2008 along with two accomplices, Amrozi bin Nurhasyim and Ali Ghufron.
Although Patek manufactured bombs at their bidding, that doesn’t prove he was involved in the plot, his defense lawyers argue. Therefore they say, he should not be charged with premeditated murder – one of six counts brought against him in his indictment.
“There is no legal argument that could prove the defendant deliberately participated in the plan to take lives,” another lawyer, who goes only by the name Ainal, told the court.
Prosecutors in the case, however, say Patek was an integral part of the conspiracy, even if he neither transported the bombs to the attack site, nor helped set them off.
“If a group of people co-operate to plan and conduct a crime of killings, it doesn’t matter who finishes the job. They are all involved,” prosecutor Bambang Suharyadi said.
Over 200 people died when the 700kg bomb, hidden in a Mitsubishi van, exploded outside the popular Sari Club on Kuta Beach. Most victims were young foreigners, though the blast also killed locals who worked in the area or were just passing by.
Patek’s defense team has also argued that terrorism laws adopted by Indonesia in 2003 can’t be applied to earlier cases, including the Bali bombing. His lawyers contest the claim that Patek participated in a jihadist training camp in the province of Aceh.
“He was at the site, but was only there to attend a wedding,” Hasludin said.
The 45-year-old Patek could be sentenced to death if convicted, and prosecutors have said they will push for the maximum penalty. He is a “dangerous figure wanted not only in Indonesia but also in other countries such as the Philippines. He has caused the deaths of many,” Bambang said.
Some analysts argue, however, that executing Patek would hinder rather than help the effort to root out violent extremism.
“It is not that I defend Patek, but it needs to be understood that he is a goldmine of information where we can always get more information about terrorist networks, particularly in South East Asia,” said Noor Huda Ismail, a Jakarta-based analyst at the Institute of International Peace Building.
According to Huda, Patek could play a role in neutralising the emergence of new radical networks, in part because of his knowledge concerning recent developments such as the Aceh camp and its leader Dulmatin, killed by police in March 2010.
There would be precedents for handing down a lighter sentence if Patek renounces extremism. In 2003, judges spared the life of convicted Bali bomber Ali Imron, who had expressed repentance over his actions and described them as misguided.
“Our capabilities as Indonesians are something to be proud of, but they were used for a wrong purpose,” said Imron, who testified he received training in Afghanistan on how to make bombs.
“In my heart, I regret this. I want to apologise to the victims’ families in Indonesia and to foreign families.”
Patek, however, has yet to signal remorse over the carnage in Bali. In October 2011, he appeared emotionless as he accompanied police on a re-enactment of the devastating attack.
He is the top remaining suspect in the Bali night clubs bombing, which focused worldwide attention on the al-Qaeda-linked group Jemaah Islamiyah and its goal of creating a pan-Islamic theocracy across Southeast Asia.