Release of Bali bomb maker ‘difficult day’ for Australians, says deputy PM

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Bali Bombing Memorial Monument in Kuta, Bali

By Kate Lamb and Sultan Anshori

SYDNEY/KUTA, Indonesia (Reuters) -Indonesia’s release of convicted Bali bomb maker Umar Patek will be a “difficult day” for Australians who lost loved ones and relatives in the attacks, Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said on Thursday.

Patek was freed on parole late on Wednesday, the same day a suicide bomber who was once jailed on terrorism charges attacked a police station in the West Javan city of Bandung, killing himself and one officer.

Patek was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2012 for involvement in bombings that ripped through two nightclubs in the busy tourist area of Kuta, Bali, killing 202 people, including 88 Australians and 38 Indonesians.

“This is going to be a very difficult day for many Australians – all Australians – to hear about the release of Umar Patek,” Marles told ABC radio. “I’m particularly thinking right now of the families of those who were killed and injured in the Bali bombings.”

The Australian government had made repeated representations to the Indonesian government about Patek’s early release, Marles said, and would continue to engage authorities about ensuring Patek was under constant surveillance.

News of Patek’s release was also met with some trepidation from survivors in Bali.

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“They might have behaved in jail, but after they’re freed, can authorities guarantee that they will not reoffend?” said I Dewa Ketut Rudita Widya Putra, whose arms are permanently scarred by burns sustained in the 2002 bombing.

“Just look at the Bandung bomber,” he said, referring to the suicide bombing a day earlier.

A member of the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah militant group, Patek had been on the run for nine years before his arrest in Pakistan in 2011.

He became eligible for parole in August because of good behaviour in prison and his scheduled release was delayed after uproar in Australia.

Patek will be required to participate in a “mentoring programme” until April 2030, and any violation could see his parole revoked, Indonesia’s justice ministry said in a statement.

Australian Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen told ABC Television on Thursday that Patek’s release was a concern for all Australians, but was unlikely to affect diplomatic relations.

“It’s important that Australia maintains strong dialogue with Indonesia so we can have those discussions, and that’s exactly what we will do,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Ananda Teresia in Jakarta and Renju Jose in Sydney;Editing by Gerry Doyle and Martin Petty)