SYDNEY: Indonesia fears the trial of an alleged mastermind of the Bali bombings would increase terrorist risks and suggested it was not keen on prosecuting Umar Patek, a report said Wednesday.
Patek, one of the most wanted terrorists in Southeast Asia, was arrested in March in Abbottabad in Pakistan - the same town where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed just weeks later.
In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, the head of Indonesia’s anti-terrorism agency Ansyaad Mbai said Patek would become a new figurehead for violent jihadis if returned to the country of his birth.
“Umar Patek was chased by many countries. There was a (million dollar) prize on his head but now that he’s arrested it’s as if Indonesia must face the problem alone,” Ansyaad told the newspaper.
“This man is very dangerous. His presence here would increase the terror threat, not only to Indonesia but to several countries with a presence here.
“He’ll be like fresh air for remnants of the terrorism network. (The terrorists) are dangerous, they still exist and they’ve been waiting for a figurehead such as Umar Patek.” Born in 1970, Patek was the alleged field coordinator for the massive explosions that flattened night clubs on the holiday island of Bali in 2002, killing more than 200 people, almost 90 of them Australians.
It placed mainly Muslim Indonesia on the front lines of the global battle against Islamic militancy.
A suspected member of the al Qaeda-linked Southeast Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), he was also blamed for a series of deadly bombings targeting Christians and Westerners in Indonesia dating back to 1999.
Ansyaad told the Herald Indonesia would face difficulties bringing him to justice, saying that the bombings occurred before Indonesia enacted its counter-terrorism laws.
Australia has previously said it would be “in the closest liaison” with Pakistan and Indonesia over “what happens next in this particular case”.
But Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, who is due to visit Jakarta this week, suggested that Patek was Indonesia’s responsibility.
“Given Patek is an Indonesian citizen and that some of the most serious crimes he is believed to have committed took place in Indonesia, the Australian government considers any action should in the first instance be taken by Indonesian authorities,” his spokeswoman said.