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Pending release of Bali bomber Umar Patek indicates weak relationship between Australia and Indonesia

By Murray Hunter - posted Monday, 29 August 2022

The pending release of Jemaah Islamiyah member Umar Patek from prison, highlights Australia’s weak relationship with Indonesia.

Umar Patek, whose real name is Hisyam bin Ali Zein just received a five month reduction in his sentence, customary during the Indonesian Independence anniversary. Together with other remissions, Patek subject to final approval from the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, will be released within the next few weeks.

Patek was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a Jakarta court in 2012. He was found guilty of mixing the bombs used in the destruction of the Sari Club and Paddy’s Pub in Bali back in 2002, where 202, including 88 Australians lost their lives. Patek was also convicted for his role in the bombings of several churches around Jakarta, where 19 people were killed. He was spared the death sentence after cooperating with police, and formally apologizing to the victims’ families.


Patek, then with a US $1.0 million bounty on his head fled just before the Bali bombing spending a few years in the Philippines and Pakistan, before being apprehended in Abbottabad, Pakistan in 2011, the same location that Osama bin Laden was killed by a US Navy Seal team a few months later. The Bali bombing mastermind Hanbali, also known as Encep Nurjaman is still detained at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, awaiting a trial.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said at a press conference that the Australian Government is taking this issue up diplomatically, along with a number of other bilateral issues with the Indonesian Government. Although Albanese described the impending release of Patek as “abhorrent”, it appears Albanese has not contacted the Indonesian President Joko Widodo directly.

The Bali bombing, killing 88 Australians was undertaken by several people affiliated with Jemaah Islamiyah, which has close ties to Al-Qaeda. According to media reports, those who had friends and family killed in the bombings are distressed over the news of Patek’s possible release.

There is some anger that Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the Bali Nine ringleaders were executed for drug smuggling, while Patek partly responsible for more than 220 deaths could soon walk free.

The Patek release is an early test for the Albanese Government.

Patek himself claims he has personally reformed and sheds remorse over his former acts. He has pledged loyalty to the Indonesian Government and has become an Icon of the program aimed at deradicalizing terrorist inmates within the prison system. Patek’s release would be a milestone in the program.


Under Indonesian jurisprudence, Patek is eligible for early release as he has already completed two-thirds of his sentence. Within the Indonesian prison system Patek has the same rights as any other prisoner.

However, for the Albanese Government with segments of the Australian population still vividly remembering the Bali Bombings, Patek’s release is seen as a grave disappointment. The modus operandi of the bombing, where one suicide bomber detonated the bomb inside the clubs, while another waited outside detonating another bomb in a parked car outside the club as patrons ran out for safety, was horrific.

Albanese must walk a fine line, both condemning the release but not being seen to disrespect the Indonesian legal system.

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This article was first published on Murray Hunter.

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About the Author

Murray Hunter is an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis. He blogs at Murray Hunter.

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