April 23, 2012
Terror suspect Umar Patek was able to flee Indonesia in 2009 because he went unrecognised by immigration authorities, witnesses testified Monday (April 23rd) before the West Jakarta District Court, citing deficiencies in communication and the fact that he was using an alibi.
"Our travel-ban list system is only in the form of a name list and identification without any photograph," said former immigration officer Asni Redani Suandi, who interviewed Patek when he applied for travel papers in 2008.
"As long as they meet the entire requirements and they are not listed on the travel-ban name list, any Indonesian citizen could be granted a passport," she said.
Although a police most-wanted list was placed in her office, Suandi said, she did not recognise Patek – who was going by the name Anis Alawi.
His application was complete and he passed the interview. As a result, her office issued a passport which he then used to leave the country.
Patek is charged with participating in a succession of terrorist attacks, including the 2002 bombing of two nightclubs in Bali. A total of 202 people died in that incident, for which he faces the death penalty if convicted.
Nine years later, he was captured in Pakistan. Indonesian authorities, whose counterterrorism efforts have largely reined in the Jemaah Islamiyah extremist group, have been struggling to pin down the sequence of events that allowed Patek to make it so far.
Monday's trial proceedings largely focused on vulnerabilities in the passport system, with judges saying procedures must be tightened and communication improved.
Asni told the court that, according to standard operating procedure, a passport applicant must submit a copy of his or her identity card, family card, and birth or marriage certificate. Once all the required material is provided, he or she will be called in for an interview and asked to bring the original documents for verification.
During the interview stage, applicants are asked several questions, she said. They may be asked to give their name, address and birthday, as well as to state their purpose in applying for a passport.
"If I was not mistaken, the defendant told me that he would use the passport for Umrah [pilgrimage to Mecca]," she told the court.
Muhammad Marsudi Rasyid, who heads the intelligence department at East Jakarta Immigration Office, told the court that the name Anis Alawi did not appear in the travel ban list in connection with terror activities. But the name Umar Patek did appear, he said.
"Our travel-ban list system only takes the form of a name list without photograph. If somebody has a different name, they can just pass through immigration and we cannot verify based on their pictures," Marsudi told the court."Even today, the travel-ban list system is only in the form of a name list without photograph."
According to the panel of judges hearing the case, Monday's testimony shows the need to improve co-ordination from ward level to immigration level.
In particular, they said, it is crucial to make sure that key documents cannot be falsified any more.
"What would the world say if this kind of thing keeps happening in Indonesia?" judges said as the hearing closed. Proceedings will resume on Thursday.