JAKARTA: Umar Patek, dubbed Indonesia's “Demolition Man”, was sentenced to 20 years’ in jail Thursday for his role in the deadly 2002 Bali attacks that triggered a decade-long crackdown on terrorism in the Southeast Asian nation.
Patek, 45, was found guilty of premeditated murder over the twin Bali bombings that killed 202 people, mostly tourists, and is suspected of being an expert bombmaker for the regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).
Patek is believed to have contacts with the central command of al Qaeda's international terror network.
Born into a family of Yemeni descent in Pemalang, central Java, on July 20, 1966, Patek admitted to attending a mujahedeen militant camp on the Afghan-Pakistani border.
He became Indonesia’s most-wanted terror suspect after the Bali bombings and had a $1 million bounty on his head under the US Rewards for Justice programme.
After more than eight years on the run, he was arrested in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad in January 2011, where US commandos killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden four months later.
He was extradited to Indonesia in August and his trial began in February this year.
US Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent Frank Pellegrino testified in April that Patek was a known bomb-making teacher among militants in the region and that he planned to kill US troops.
Pellegrino quoted a witness interviewed by the FBI in the Philippines, who said Patek “was interested in going back to Pakistan and Afghanistan and working with Osama bin Laden” and reviving links with al Qaeda, something Patek denies.
Farihin, a fellow JI member who goes by one name, told AFP that “Umar is an expert in demolition”.
The allegations inspired Patek's nickname “Demolition Man” in local media, but Patek has painted himself as a little fish in the JI network, admitting only to mixing 50 kilograms out of a tonne of chemicals for the Bali attacks.
He claims to have made an 11th-hour bid to stop the operation, saying it made better sense to commit jihad abroad.
“If you want to do jihad, do it in another country such as Palestine, where Islamic people need help,” he told the court earlier this month. He has begged the court for mercy, saying the attacks were “not my soul’s calling” and “against my conscience”.
Patek has maintained he is too frail to have helped with the logistics of transporting the heavy explosives and denies any expertise in bombmaking.
Patek fled to the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines after the Bali bombings.
He was said to have joined Mindanao’s Moro Islamic Liberation Front and planned to move to Afghanistan to help fight US troops.
The court found he returned to Indonesia in June 2009 to join Dulmatin, one of the alleged masterminds of the Bali attacks who was killed by police shortly afterwards.
After his return to Indonesia, Patek and his Philippine wife Ruqayyah Husein Luceno hid for a year in east Jakarta and elsewhere before heading to the Pakistani city of Lahore using false identities, according to court documents.
An Indonesian court in January sentenced Luceno to 27 months in prison for falsifying her identity in order to obtain an Indonesian passport.
Patek is also wanted in the Philippines, where he allegedly plotted attacks with militants after escaping the Indonesian dragnet.
He is believed to be indirectly associated with radical Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, who was jailed last June for funding terrorism.