The three meetings between Tempo and Umar Patek scheduled throughout the month of May were to have been private sessions. But Umar Patek is no ordinary man. He was once listed as the most wanted terrorist in the world. The United States put a US$1 million price on his head. So, the private interview was not to happen, as 3 meters away, armed security personnel guarded the basement waiting room at the West Jakarta District Court where Umar Patek was being held.
Even outside the detention room there were armed military personnel standing guard from the door of the detention cell to the gate leading outside. Throughout the trial, two Barracuda APCs were parked inside the premises, next to a van belonging to the bomb squad. At the end of every session a car with dark-tinted glass would dash out carrying Umar Patek to another destination, escorted by a convoy of security cars and screeching sirens. It looked like a scene from a war zone.
Last week, Umar Patek was sentenced to 20 years in prison, far less time than what the prosecutor had demanded. On the day of the sentencing, the police deployed 240 men to secure the area.
Forty-six-year-old Umar Patek always came to court dressed neatly in a long linen, cream-colored shirt, wearing a white cap and glasses. In the waiting room, a bottle of mineral water, a glass of milk, one orange and some crackers were set on a table for his consumption after each court session.
Tempo reporters Riky Ferdianto and Hermien Y. Kleden interviewed Umar Patek during breaks between the sessions. He answered the questions politely but dispassionately. Excerpts of the interview:
What do you expect from this trial?
Justice. I don't expect to be set free. I am guilty and I admit it. But the portion of my guilt must be measured. That is all I ask. All the witnesses have spoken out. Don't let there be the impression that requests from foreigners were served.
What requests from foreigners?
In the prosecutor's indictment, four sentences contained requests from foreign parties. I quote, "…in consideration of the international world…" They were shown four times. What was the intention?
You must surely remember that the victims of the first Bali bombing were mainly foreigners?
The legal process must be purely sovereign (Indonesian law), in our own country. We should not consider the interests of outside the country. I am just a common man who has been aggrandized by the media, like a deer that is now being perceived as an elephant. The clever one was Dulmatin. I was just assisting him. If my role was as great as the media maintained, the Americans would not have offered a mere US$1 million for my head.
You mean it should be more than that?
More than that [if I did play an important role]. With Dulmatin dead, I am the only remaining member. So I become the target of continuous rumors.
What exactly was your role in the 2002 Bali bombing?
I helped to assemble less than 50 kilogram bombs. So I wasn't the only one to be doing so. I was at the evaluation meeting [before the bombing]. But I never attended planning sessions, so while I admit my guilt, please look at it proportionately.
You publicly apologized, more than once. Was it a strategy to get a lighter sentence and improve your image?
Look, since my extradition from Pakistan I have been detained and even when in court, I was never able to have access to reporters. As detainee, I am not likely to be allowed to meet them. And the many reporters that want to meet me, have not been able to do so. So, I could have conveyed my apology earlier if I could. It's not because of the trial.
Has anyone in your network questioned your decision to apologize publicly?
I am alone in my cell, never meeting other people. So I wouldn't know what their response might be.
Aren't you worried to be seen as being against them now?
No. The current crop of terrorists detained here are young people who only had their training from textbooks. I can stand up to them anytime. I became what I am from experience and practice in jihad places, not by reading books.
How did you assemble the bomb for the first Bali attack?
I didn't do it on my own. We did it together. In fact, I disapproved right from the start. When I entered the work room where all the explosive pieces were scattered around, I was angry. "What are we doing? This is a bomb. This is not like a bullet, this will kill everyone." But they had all agreed and the process had begun. Later, during a break, they told me: "Let it be, you are one of us and we cannot cancel this."
What do you mean? You were the first Bali bombing field coordinator.
I can [assemble bombs] but only the low explosives, which I learnt when I was in Afghanistan.
Weren’t you the one who taped everything together?
Yes, I taped a filing cabinet shelf together. The material was aluminum powder, very flakey. So they needed to be taped down.
Was Dr. Azahari there?
At that time he was not there. Azahari came a few days later.
Why do you say the first Bali bombing was a failure?
I explained that in my defence. I meant failed in its objective. If the aim was to fight against those who fight Islam, the victims were foreigners and the Balinese themselves are mostly Hindus, who never wage war against Muslims. So why should we attack them? If they want to go to war, please go to Palestine. Secondly, are the foreigners there (Bali) Israelis? Worse, there could have been Muslim foreigners among the victims. There are many expatriate mujahid. I met Dutch, British and German Muslims in Afghanistan.
After the Bali bombing, you fled to the Philippines. Who helped you?
I didn't go to the Philippines to flee. I had all intentions to come back, it's just that I never had enough money. The person who helped me was Arham. We went by sea.
Who did you meet in the Philippines?
I was first in the Philippines in 1992, a year after my military training in Afghanistan. When I joined the military academy there, I met many Filipinos. It was there I began my jihad activities, studied military operations and religious issues.
What exactly did you do there?
I joined the mujahidin, which was a separatist movement. Both the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and the Abu Sayyaf group were separatists. I stayed with the Moros, not with Indonesians over there.
From the Philippines you returned to Indonesia in November 2000. Why 2000?
At first, because my father in Bondowoso asked me to come home. By coincidence, it was when the Philippine military took over power [in the south]. The mujahidin scattered all over the jungles and they were told to go home to their villages and lie low. Weapons were stowed away. Because I looked like a Filipino, my friends advised me to go back to Indonesia, pending their redeployment. So I went home to the family, and met my friends who were doing it (the Bali bombing).
While you were in the southern Philippines, were you ever caught?
No. I never was.
Did you ever meet Osama bin Laden when you were in Pakistan?
In 1991, I joined military training with the mujahidin in Afghanistan, the camp of which was close to Pakistan, but I never saw Osama.
How did you get caught in Pakistan?
I was arrested in Abbotabad (a town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province), but I knew that only after I was arrested. The friend whom I lodged with in Lahore went off to fetch a European. He was arrested and his home raided. My wife and I were there, so of course, they nabbed me too.
Was there a gunfight?
I did not shoot, I was shot. After they cuffed my hands and put irons on my legs, they shot my feet.
How large is the terrorist movement in Indonesia today?
I cannot speculate. Most likely, those movements are still around. Just look at the church bombings and the book bombs. I don't know many of them, but I advised all Muslim activists that if they wanted a jihad they ought to go overseas, not wage it in Indonesia.
What do you think about in your cell?
I always think about Palestine, how to get there. But since I'm in prison, that wouldn't be possible.
Do you ever think about the hundreds of people who died because of the Bali bombing?
I think a lot about them, but not in my dreams. I am guilty and I beg for forgiveness. But I can still wage war, particularly when I see a wounded person. Every time I see a wounded mujahid writhing in pain, I think of the Bali bombing victims. I have experienced being hurt myself in war, and it hurt. So, if we want to seek revenge, better do it to those who fight us. Don't make Bali the target. That was why I disapproved [of the Bali bombing].
Did you prepare your own defence?
I wrote it in the space of three weeks. In it, I straightened some facts, referred to the Bali bombing, activities in Aceh and ownership of guns. In my view, the prosecutor's indictment was nothing more than a copy-paste job, which could have been done in less than a minute. That's too much. Facts were totally disregarded. I see no use in this trial.
Some of the text reads like it was out of a literary book. Do you read literature?
Rarely. I just read the Qur'an and sunnah prayers.
Which prayers do you read?
I always recite Ibnu Muslim prayers written by Syekh Said al-Haqqani and his book.
Who do you pray for?
I pray for all the victims, both Muslims and non-Muslims, including those who have helped me.
In your defence, you claim to be reluctant about opposing Dulmatin because he helped you a lot. How close were you?
I knew Dulmatin since our childhood days. We were close neighbors, our homes just shouting distance away.
Describe the Dulmatin you knew.
He was aggressive but smart and big. Compared to me, he was sooooo far ahead. I never went to college, no time to join the UMPTN. Dulmatin was very clever.
When you get released from prison, what will you do?
I would like to go back to my family and fight alongside them: for rice and money.
Talk about food and money, how have you been providing for your family?
When I was in the Philippines, thankfully I got some help from the local mujahidin. I always sent to my wife her needs. At the Abu Bakar camp in Mindanao, I was a vendor.
What did you sell?
Indonesian products like Rinso, Ciptadent and bath soaps. There are many Indonesian goods there, smuggled or otherwise.
Did you sell by the roadside?
No, in the camp. I delivered goods to the stores there because I charged cheaper prices.
Why was it cheaper?
First, because it came from Indonesia. I always brought them back to the Philippines or I bought them off the fishermen. Before they went to markets, I would sell the wares, making it cheaper.
What is your favorite food?
I like Middle Eastern food. My parents liked to cook spiced rice, khabsa and curry.
Place & Date of Birth: Pemalang, Central Java, July 12, 1966 Name and aliases: Hisyam bin Ali Zein alias Abdul Ghoni alias Abu Syeikh alias Umar Kecil alias Umar Arab alias Pak Taek alias Zaki. Also known as Bambang Tutuko Education & Training: l Pemalang Muhammadiyah 1 High School (1986) l Military Training Camp, Afghanistan (1990s) l Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Mindanao (1995) l Jemaah Islamiyah Military Camp at Hudaibiyah, Philippines (1998) Involvement in Terrorist Acts: 2000: Conflict in Ambon and Christmas bombings 2002: First Bali bombing (October 12, 2012). Assembled the bomb, monitored and mapped the locations, set the timing of the bombs 2004: Sent weapons to Ambon conflict and military training in West Seram.
No. 44/12, June 26, 2012