An Indonesian militant has been convicted of helping to build the massive car bomb used in the 2002 Bali nightclub attacks and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Known as “Demolition Man,” Umar Patek, 45, was found guilty of all charges by the West Jakarta district court for his role in the 2002 resort island attacks that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians and seven Americans.
The five-member panel of jusdges concluded Patek played an important role in building the explosives used in the bombings. He was also sentenced for his involvement in Jakarta church attacks on Christmas Eve in 2000 that killed 19 people.
“The acts of the defendant have created many victims and caused deep suffering to the victims’ families,” the verdict said.
Patek, who was arrested last year in Pakistan in the same northwestern town where Osama bin Laden was killed several months later, was the last key defendant to be tried following the attacks. He argued that he did not play a major part in building the car bomb, which was the biggest explosive used in the attack. Instead, he said bomb-making masterminds Azahari bin Husin and Dulmatin were in charge of that job. Both have since died in police raids.
Patek, whose real name is Hisyam bin Alizein, has apologised to the victims’ families, Christians and to the government, saying he was not in favour of going through with the attack against tourists, but that he could not speak out against other senior members of the group. The mission was supposedly meant to avenge Western policies in the Palestinian territories, but Patek argued that he never saw the connection.
He could have faced a firing squad for the various terror-related and criminal charges.
Prosecutors had sought a life sentence for Patek, who was accused of illegal weapons possession, concealing terrorist acts, immigration violations and premeditated murder in the Bali bombings. Some felt the sentence was too light, but were encouraged by the remorse Patek expressed during the trial.
“We will use him to influence other militants to not carry out terrorism acts,” said Harry Purwanto, deputy chairman of Indonesia’s counter terrorism agency. “Our aim is not only to jail them, but to change their platform to be law-abiding citizens.”
The Bali bombings marked Indonesia’s deadliest terror strike. On Saturday, 12 October 2002, a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a nightclub jammed with tourists at Kuta beach, killing many instantly and forcing others to flee. Another suicide bomber detonated the massive bomb loaded in the car parked in front of two clubs.
Patek left Bali just before the attacks and spent nine years running from the law, travelling in the Philippines and Pakistan. A $1 million bounty was offered for his capture. Philippine interior secretary Jesse Robredo, who oversees the national police, said he expected many people would feel that Patek deserved a harsher punishment.
“Many will feel this is light, considering the massive deaths caused by the attack he was involved in,” he said.