While some criticise the sentence as too light, others say Umar Patek has shown sincere remorse and can help persuade others from making the mistake that he did
The 20-year jail sentence handed down to Bali bomber Umar Patek on Thursday (June 21st) has elicited mixed reactions in Indonesia. Some say his sentence is an adequate warning to terrorists, while others insist he deserved to die for his role in ending so many lives.
“We all hoped that Patek would be given a death sentence because he helped to take hundreds of people’s lives by committing acts of terrorism, and the 2002 Bali bomb was the biggest terrorism attack in Indonesia,” Tony Soemarno of the Association of Bomb Victims in Indonesia (ASKOBI), told Khabar Southeast Asia.
But Noor Huda Ismail, a terrorism expert and founder of the Institute for International Peace Building, said the sentence was appropriate because Patek is a valuable source of intelligence and can help teach youth not to follow the path of extremist violence.
“I think that 20 years in prison is the correct sentence for Patek. He has given a lot of information to the police, especially about terrorist networks sending members to Mindanao, Pakistan and also Afghanistan,” he told Khabar.
“His information will be very useful for the police in tracking down terrorist networks in Indonesia,” Noor said of the one-time leading member of Jemaah Islamiyah, which has been linked to al-Qaeda.
Patek’s public acknowledgement of regret for the terrorist acts in which he participated will help discourage young people from turning to extremism, Noor said.
“Patek has told the public that he did not agree with the 2000 church attack or the 2002 Bali bombing,” he said. “And he has expressed his regret over his involvement.”
The 45-year-old terrorist was convicted on six charges, including premeditated murder of the Bali victims and for bombings at six Jakarta churches on Christmas Eve in 2000, as well as identification fraud and illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
According to the indictment against him, Patek was responsible for assembling the bombs that killed 202 people, most of them foreigners, at a nightclub in Kuta, Bali in October 2002. During his trial, however, he claimed he had only a minor role in the Bali attacks, was against them “from the start” and tried to stop them at the 11th hour.
He also apologised to victims and their families, the Indonesian government and the international community.
Prosecutors had sought a life sentence because he showed remorse during the four-month trial, while Patek’s attorneys asked for less than 15 years.
Encep Yuliardi, presiding judge of the five-member panel that handed down the sentence at West Jakarta District Court, said Patek had to be held accountable for his actions.
“He should know that no matter how small his role, the result was loss of lives,” Encep said at the sentencing. “He says he disagreed with it, but he could have rejected it and could have considered not following the orders of his seniors, or at least reporting [the plot] to the authorities.”
The bombings not only took a devastating human toll but also damaged Indonesia’s economy, the judge said. However, he added, Patek’s expressions of remorse and his public rejection of extremist violence were considered mitigating factors. Encep said he considered Patek’s statements to be sincere.
Patek’s sentence will deter others who might consider following the path of terrorism, while his example serves to show that misinterpretation of jihad creates a bad image for Islam, Encep said.