AUSTRALIAN police held grave fears Indonesian authorities were about to destroy crucial evidence from the Bali bombings because of Indonesia’s Muslim burial traditions, former commissioner Mick Keelty has revealed.
Mr Keelty was commissioner of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) at the time of the October 12, 2002 terror attacks carried out by Islamic extremist group Jemaah Islamiah.
The co-ordinated suicide and car bombing in the popular tourist district of Kuta killed 202 people, including 88 mostly young Australians.
Mr Keelty was responsible for leading Australia’s response, including aiding Indonesian police in their ultimately successful hunt for the perpetrators.
But the former commissioner revealed there were real fears that Indonesian authorities would destroy vital clues because of the Muslim custom of burying the dead within 24 hours.
“Muslims bury their dead within 24 hours, but we know that in our own experience in Western traditions if you have a murder in Sydney you could potentially leave the body in situ for 24 hours or more,” Mr Keelty said.
“There was that tension (in Bali) about cleaning up the crime scene very quickly.
“And some of the Indonesians are very good at that, they get on with things.”
Mr Keelty said there were also fears that the federal police would not be able to give the Australian government and public a quick and proper explanation of what happened if the evidence was not analysed correctly.
“When there’s bombs exploding, you can’t discern one body from another … It’s very hard to identify people,” he continued.
“We talked to Indonesia about the Interpol international standard, which was to have fingerprints or other forms of identification – DNA – and of course DNA identification takes a lot of time.
“Back here at home, people just wanted answers. People wanted to know whether their relatives were alive or dead.
“… That was a very frustrating time at home. People wanted answers and wanted them straight away.”
Mr Keelty was speaking during a Lowy Institute panel discussion in Sydney about the bombings, ahead of next week’s 10th anniversary of the atrocity.
He said the co-operation between Australia and Indonesia in the aftermath of the attack had become the envy of law enforcement agencies around the world, including America’s FBI.
Both Mr Keelty and another panellist, Dr Dave McRae, said Indonesia and Australia had made great strides in counter terrorism and intelligence gathering since the 2002 bombings.
But they said Indonesia still suffered from low-level violence and political unrest.
“I suspect from the background I’m coming from, there will always be some sort of unrest,” Mr Keelty added. – AAP