Umar Patek, a key suspect in the 2002 Bali Bombing that killed 202 people, was returned to Indonesia on Thursday morning to face trial. As of yet, a trial date has not been set.
Patek is a senior member of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and allegedly helped to assemble the bomb used during the attack in Bali. He is believed to be the last suspect involved in the Bali bombing who has not yet been arrested or killed. He was captured in Abbottabad on January 25, the same town where al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed later on.
Ansyaad Mbai, Indonesia’s anti-terrorism chief denied that this was merely a coincidence, stating that this is “further evidence of the link between the Southeast Asian terror network and al-Qaida”. It is believed that Patek had travelled to Abbottabad to meet Osama bin Laden.
Security analysts believe that Patek could reveal information about connections between Southeast Asian terrorist cells and the al-Qaeda.
Although Patek faces trial in Indonesia, he will not be facing terrorism charges, as Indonesia’s anti-terrorism law was enacted only in 2003 and cannot be applied retroactively for the bombings which occurred in 2002. Thus, it will be likely he will be charged with murder and illegal possession of explosives, which both have a maximum penalty of death. Because these charges are under a weaker criminal code, there are concerns that he may get a lighter sentence.
Though Patek was extradited to Indonesia due to his Indonesian citizenship, the US and Australia both sought his custody after killing seven American nationals and 88 Australian citizens in the Bali bombing attack. Patek was also wanted in the Philippines for his ties to Philippine militant group Abu Sayyaf and his involvement in a string of terrorist attacks in the country.
Report: Bali bombing suspect extradited to Indonesia [AP, 11 Aug 2011]
Report: Bali bombing suspect returned to Indonesia [Today Online, 12 Aug 2011]
Analysis: Patek may get off lightly [Jakarta Post, 12 Aug 2011]
In other regional security news, the Philippines has deployed the army to ease the violence between two warring factions of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the biggest separatist group that is active in southern Philippines.
The violence, which began on Sunday, has caused 14 deaths thus far. The Philippine government is holding peace talks with the MILF later this month, but there are concerns that the in-fighting may delay these negotiations. However, Von al-Haq, spokesman for the MILF, said the fighting is unrelated to the recent developments in the peace process.
“This fighting was purely because of land conflict… We are confident that the peace process will not be affected,” he said.
Report: 14 dead in fighting between MILF, renegade troops [ABS-CBN, 12 Aug 2011]