One of the bomb makers in the 2002 Bali attacks that killed more than 200 people has been released on parole, despite the opposition of Australia’s prime minister, who described him as “abhorrent”.
Umar Patek, a member of the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah, was jailed for 20 years in 2012 after he was found guilty of mixing bombs that ripped through two Bali nightclubs, killing 202 people, including 88 Australians.
The Australian government said many Australians would be “deeply hurt” by Patek’s release, adding that it had “sought assurances from the Indonesian government that he will be subject to ongoing supervision and monitoring”.
“Today our thoughts are with the victims and survivors of the Bali bombings and their families,” a spokesperson for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.
“We have registered our concerns about Umar Patek’s release with the Indonesian government on multiple occasions.”
The Australian minister for home affairs, Clare O’Neil, who visited Indonesia earlier this week, said the Australian government had “put in the strongest possible terms our views about what has occurred, and we have done that clearly”.
O’Neil said it was a “horrible” day for families of the victims and described Patek’s actions as “inexcusable and completely abhorrent”.
Patek, 55, whose real name is Hisyam bin Alizein, was released from prison in the East Java city of Surabaya at 8am on Wednesday (1am GMT) and was escorted by authorities as no one from his family came to pick him up.
“He is obliged to follow the office’s guidance and must not commit any violence to keep his parole,” said Rika Aprianti, a spokesperson for the Corrections Department at the justice ministry.
Patek was sentenced to 20 years in prison a decade after the bombing but received a total of 33 months of sentence reductions, which are often given to prisoners on major holidays. Most recently, he was granted a five-month reduction on 17 August, Indonesia’s Independence Day. That meant he had fulfilled the parole requirement of serving two-thirds of his current sentence, Aprianti said.
Authorities believe the convicted extremist has “shown changes” after undergoing a deradicalisation programme, according to the official. “Most importantly, he has pledged allegiance to the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia,” she said.
But experts have warned that releasing Patek and his fellow Bali bomber Ali Imron – who is serving a life sentence – could boost their notoriety upon release.
Australia lost the most of any of the 21 countries whose nationals were killed.
The Australian prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said in August he had nothing but “contempt” and disgust for Patek’s actions, saying his early release would only renew distress and trauma for the victims’ grieving families.
Patek was captured in 2011 after nearly a decade on the run with a $1m bounty on his head in Abbottabad, the same Pakistani town where Osama bin Laden was killed by US special forces.
The West Jakarta district court concluded that Patek had played an important role in building a car bomb that was detonated by another person outside the Sari Club in Kuta, moments after a smaller bomb in a backpack was detonated by a suicide bomber inside the nearby Paddy’s Bar nightclub. The attacks killed 202 people – mostly foreign tourists – including 88 Australians, leaving a deep scar in that country.
During the trial, Patek admitted he had helped make the bombs, but said he had not known how they would be used. He was spared the death sentence after collaborating with the police and apologising to the victims’ families.
Patek recently claimed that it was a “mistake” to become involved in the 2002 attacks, and alleged he had opposed the plan. In a video apparently filmed inside Porong prison, he said: “I didn’t come to Indonesia to join the Bali bomb project. Even when I found out about it I was so against it, I disagreed with it. I asked the others at the time, what were the reasons for the attack plan. There were no reasons.”
The attacks on a nightclub and bar were the deadliest in Indonesian history and led to a crackdown on extremism in the country, which has the largest Muslim population in the world.