The man found guilty of being part of the team that built the bombs used in the 2002 Bali Bombing attacks is set to be released from prison in the coming weeks. Over the weekend, Umar Patek appeared in a 20-minute video interview with a prison general, sparking more heartache and frustration for victims and their loved ones.
The video, which has now been removed, was initially shared on the YouTube account of Porong Prison, where Patek has served just half his 20-year sentence. In the interview, Patek is joined by Porong Prison Governor Jalu Yuswa Panjang. The pair can be seen walking around the prison grounds, smiling and laughing.
The choice to create and post such a video has been branded as bizarre by some online commentators. The Porong Prison YouTube channel shares videos semi-regularly and features interviews with other prisoners, some of whom are also convicted terrorists.
It is unclear why the video was removed, and Porong Prison has not released a statement. The video quickly went viral online and received significant backlash. Television media channels could grab snippets of the interview before it was removed from the YouTube account.
The video transcription makes for distressing reading for victims and their loved ones. While Patek expresses remorse for his actions and confirms his deradicalization, the jovial expressions of Patek and Governor Panjang are triggering for those affected by the attacks. 202 people were killed in the bombings, including 88 Australians.
Patek, now 52 years old, tells Governor Panjang, ‘I didn’t come to Indonesia to join the Bali bomb project’. He claims that although he spent time in the Philippines, Afghanistan, and Pakistan with terrorist groups, he returned to Indonesia to introduce his wife to his family in Java. Patek was also found guilty of assembling the bombs used in the Christmas Eve church bombings in Java in 2000.
When Governor Panjang asks Patek about what he hopes for his future, a question that is particularly hard for victims and loved ones to hear, Patek responds with a seemingly reformed point of view.
He said ‘I’d like to work with millennials because they’re the ones more prone to get infected by the radicalism virus… I’d like to help the government to educate people about the issue, for millennials and maybe terror inmates in prisons. I am open to help the directorate general of correctional facilities or other institutions’.
He confirmed that if and when he is granted parole, he would like to work alongside other ex-terrorists who had also undergone reform. He explained how he wants to work in Tenggulun, a village in west Surabaya, where other members of the team behind the Bali Bombing attacks came from.
The village will soon host a national Peace Circle program to prevent Islamic extremism and introduce people to the early interventions that are in place to protect vulnerable people from being exploited and integrated into terrorist organizations.
The Peace Circle program was founded by former terrorists who have undergone deradicalization programs. The founder of Peace Circle, Ali Fauzi, told reporters that he has been in touch with Umar Patek and is confident that his reform is genuine.
Fauzi told the media ‘Umar Patek agreed to leave his old world behind and turn over a new leaf….His release would be beneficial for society. I guarantee 100 percent that Umar won’t commit further terror actions, and he’ll continue to be involved in deradicalization programs’.
Jan Laczynski, an Australian who lost five friends in the attack, has been vocal with his concerns following the news of Patek’s near-certain release from prison. Laczynski told reporters, ‘You’re taking someone and a great leap of faith. Someone says they’re all perfectly reformed, but they always say the same thing. They always say it in a high-security jail’.
As the 20th anniversary of the attacks approaches, victims and their loved ones are struggling to reconcile Patek’s early release. Authorities in Indonesia are reportedly running final checks and paperwork to ensure that Patek is not a target for groups who want to get revenge on him for discarding his old beliefs.