JAKARTA: The bombmaker accused of playing a key role in the 2002 Bali attacks that killed 202 people expressed regret Monday and said he did not have prior knowledge of the targets.
Umar Patek, 45, is accused of being a central figure in attacks on two nightclubs in the Indonesian resort island of Bali — which claimed the lives of 88 Australians — and on churches in Jakarta on Christmas Eve in 2000.
Patek, who was arrested in the same Pakistani town as Osama bin Laden just months before the al Qaeda chief was killed, has admitted mixing explosives for the attacks, but claims his role was more minor than prosecutors allege.
“I was very sad and regret the (Bali) incident happened, because I was against it from the start. I never agreed with their methods,” Patek told his trial at the West Jakarta district court.
“I totally had no idea about the target of the bombing,” he said.
Patek said the plans for the nightclub attacks on October 12, 2002, were drawn up at the home of Dulmatin, another Bali cohort, who was killed by police.
“It was mentioned that they will bomb a place with many Westerners as retaliation to the killing of Muslims in Palestine,” Patek testified, speaking calmly and gesturing with his hands.
“I questioned why in Bali? Jihad should be carried out in Palestine instead. But they said they did not know how to get to Palestine,” he said, adding “Dulmatin told me not to think so hard, just help.”
Patek allegedly used simple household tools including a rice ladle to assemble the Bali bombs, which according to the court indictment were housed in ordinary filing cabinets.
“The defendant filled up the black powder in four filing cabinets, in the meantime, Dulmatin made the bomb's electronic circuit,” the indictment said.
With bombmaker Azahari Husin, a Malaysian killed at a hideout on Java island, Patek assembled the detonating cord and then loaded the filing cabinets into a car, the document added.
But Patek said Monday his role went no further than mixing the explosives.
“I helped to mix the chemicals,” he confessed.
“They loaded explosives onto the car while I stayed inside my room and read the Quran,” he added.
Patek is accused of being the expert bombmaker of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a Southeast Asian terror network linked to al Qaeda.
He was arrested in January last year in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad, where US commandos later killed bin Laden.
During the trial, evidence emerged that bin Laden gave JI $30,000 to wage jihad in the region and Patek might have met him when he was in Abbottabad, a claim Patek has repeatedly denied.
“I don't know about the source of funds,” he said Monday. “In the name of God, I have never met the man named Osama bin Laden,” he added.
A special agent with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation Frank Pellegrino testified in April that Patek was widely-known as an expert bombmaker.
According to Pellegrino, a witness interviewed by the FBI in the Philippines reported Patek as saying he “was interested in going back to Pakistan and Afghanistan and working with Osama bin Laden”.
Patek was once the most-wanted terror suspect in Indonesia and spent nearly a decade on the run with a $1 million bounty on his head by the United States under its rewards for justice program.
Prosecutors are seeking the death sentence for Patek on charges that include premeditated murder.