20 years after Bali bombings, Indonesia seeks to reintegrate ex-terrorists
By Rudy Madanir and Christine Tjandraningsih, KYODO NEWS – 23 minutes ago – 16:34 | World, Feature
Ni Luh Erniati lost her husband 20 years ago in the triple bombing on the Indonesian resort island of Bali that left 202 dead, and it took her a long time to come to terms with her anger.
I Gede Badrawan, butler at the Sari Club, was among those killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the popular nightspot in Bali’s bustling tourist area of Kuta on October 12, 2002, leaving Erniati with two children .
The anger that filled her heart has only diminished in recent years, after she realized that it would only bring her more pain and revenge would not give her peace of mind.
The 52-year-old was at a loss for words when she finally met Umar Patek, the bombmaker, at Porong prison in East Java province in late September. The so-called Demolition Man rushed over to her, cried, and kissed her feet.
Photo taken on October 12, 2022 shows a memorial for the victims of the 2002 Bali bombings in the resort town of Kuta in Bali, Indonesia. (Kyodo)
“He asked for forgiveness,” she said, recalling their hour-long encounter. “I touched his hands and told him that I had already forgiven him.”
Erniati’s meeting with Patek was arranged by Detachment 88 of the Police Counter-Terrorism Unit, named after the 88 Australians killed in the blasts, as part of the government’s so-called de-radicalization program for convicts who were d former terrorists.
Detachment 88, in conjunction with the National Counterterrorism Agency, says the program has radically changed the thinking of hundreds of former terrorists.
“Their mindset has changed drastically. In particular, they regret what they have done,” agency chief Boy Rafli Amar told Kyodo News in a recent interview.
Amar claimed that more than 90 percent of the approximately 900 terrorism-related detainees voluntarily joined the program, which provides a dialogue with experts who convince them that violence is not the way to find a solution to their grievances.
Detainees also learned “to be more tolerant and to accept differences in religion and ethnicity”, the police general said.
At the end of the program, which also includes entrepreneurship training, participants must swear loyalty to the state in exchange for reduced sentences.
Marthinus Hukom, head of Detachment 88, separately said Patek was one of the program’s success stories and a “model” case for reforming other activists.
Patek and Ali Imron, another convicted Bali suicide bomber, are set to appear in an anti-terror campaign video to be released on YouTube later this month.
Patek became eligible for parole in August after his prison sentence was reduced by 20 years.
His release, however, was delayed due to opposition from survivors of the bombings and relatives of the victims. The Australian government also opposed his release.
Hukom stressed that one of the main tasks ahead is to prepare the ground for the public to welcome former convicted terrorists.
“Don’t let the stigma of terrorism stay with them forever,” he told a select group of reporters in an interview. “If they are isolated, they will return to their exclusive group.”
He added, “We need to create a space for reconciliation between victims and perpetrators.”
Both Amar and Hukom said that Jemaah Islamiyah, the South Asian branch of al-Qaida responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings, and other terror networks have been weakened by the arrest of many senior members.
Over the past four years, more than 1,300 arrests have been made, police said. No organized terrorist attack has taken place since 2018, when suicide bombers hit three churches in the capital of East Java province, Surabaya, killing 28 people.
“If you want to measure the success (of the program), I can say that in the past two years there has been no recurrence,” Hukom said.
Amar, however, warned that threats remained.
“The younger generation (of terrorists) is still active and reorganizing with a different style of operation,” he said.
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