Bule Bombing

Last updated: February 21, 2013
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Italian expat now terror suspect after alleged Lion Air bomb threat.

Western men who have lived in Indonesia for 10+ years have usually mastered several key areas, such as:

Indeed, as someone who gets regularly fingerprinted and photographed for immigration/visa purposes, the author has wanted to suggest to immigration officials that their time would be better spent profiling Indonesians. The reason being in the past Western men have always been the victims of crime (not the perpetrators), especially in cases of terrorism.

Until now.

Mr Andrea Giovanni Sorteni, 47, appeared to be one such expat living happily in Bali. An Italian painter – of art, not of walls – he has lived in Bali for 10 years and is married to a local lady. But everything changed three weeks ago.

On the evening of Sunday 14 October, Mr Sorteni allegedly phoned the Lion Air call centre and made an offer they couldn’t refuse a threat they couldn’t ignore. He allegedly said – in Indonesian, presumably – that there was a bomb in a bag on board Lion Air JT568 from Yogyakarta to Denpasar. Perhaps, a horse’s head (or lion’s head) couldn’t be found…

Airport security delayed the flight while they inspected the plane, but found no bomb and cleared the flight to travel to Denpasar as planned.

Police soon traced the call to Mr Sorteni’s mobile phone. Further investigation uncovered a possible motive: his wife was initially on the passenger manifest for the flight, but did not board after failing to check-in. There are also suggestions that Mr Sorteni may have “drunk and dialed”.

Italian Terror Suspect Flies Lion Air to Yogyakarta
Terror suspect and proud Italian –
Mr Andrea Giovanni Sorteni, escorted by police and his wife

Mr Sorteni was soon arrested and flown to Yogyakarta – curiously, on Lion Air – for questioning. His wife was also questioned, but only as a witness. Mr Sorteni was subsequently charged with terrorism offences.

For his part, Mr Sorteni denies the allegations; he claims he was only requesting his wife be allowed to travel on a different flight. Known only as Mrs UM, his wife hails from the terrorist hotspot of Solo in Central Java, but is not believed to be involved in her husband’s plot.

While some have suggested Mr Sorteni will now have a lot more time to practice painting on prison walls, similar offences have usually incurred a short jail term.

In 2005, the jealous fiancée of a Thai Embassy security guard wanted to prevent her spouse-to-be’s upcoming leave and solo trip to his hometown. Conventional persuasion failed, so she sms-ed a bomb threat to the Jakarta Police Chief against the Thai Embassy (and the British Embassy too, as a red herring). Once it was establised her only motive was to “control her fiancé’s movements”, she received a 1-year jail sentence, shorter than the maximum of 4 years.

In 2009, the relative of a passenger left stranded by Sriwijaya Air hired a group of 11 thugs to smash up the Sriwijaya Air ticket office at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta Airport with tin sticks and samurai swords. This happened in broad daylight, and 9 of the 11 assailants escaped airport security and police in an hour-long car chase down the airport toll road.

Regardless, it seems unusual that Mr Sorteni – a 10-year veteran expat – would lose his cool over a relatively minor issue, especially when considering everything else that might upset him on a daily basis. To put it another way, people who are easily upset by culture shock and small things don’t usually live in Indonesia for so long.

Or maybe the author is managing his expectations better than some.

Perhaps some other long-term expats could share what (if anything) still makes them lose their cool and go troppo.


The defendant in the telephone terror case involving a Lion Air plane flying from Yogya to Bali last year, Giovanni Andrea Sorteni (49), died in Sleman District Hospital, Yogyakarta on Monday at around 1.30pm. Sorteni allegedly died from acute and severe dehydration.

The Italian … was taken to Sleman hospital unconscious from his Yogya cell on Monday.

“Having undergone hospital diagnosis in the ED Sleman, Giovanni was found to have severe dehydration and diarrhea. The patient also suffered renal failure, high sugar levels and also had an infection in his body,” explained Director of Hospital Sleman, Joko Hastrayo.


5 Comments on “Bule Bombing”

  1. Oigal says:

    What a curious man, surely anyone anywhere these days knows the one thing you don’t joke about is Bombs and Planes. It is a very quick way to the padded room and scary goons with rubber gloves.

    That said seriously after ten years in Indonesia he must have known the following self evident truths:

    1. Lion and the other cut rate airlines do not run on time…ever
    2. There will always be a traffic jam on the way to and from the airport
    3. A single overhead locker can carry 330Kg in assorted cardboard boxes (don’t let the design fool you)
    4. It is compulsory to activate your hand-phones on final approach as it is very possible the President has called to ask your advice of religious harmony
    5. Only a kumpangan rice trader has less than 3 phones and they all must on at all times
    6. There is a 5 juta prize awarded to the first person out the door of plane upon arrival with bonuses for stomping children and old ladies on the way
    7. Only numpties line up in order
    8. Any bag will be tampered with if you transit and change planes with Surabaya being the worst.

  2. Oigal says:

    Oigal’s Airline Survival techniques. As a very frequent traveler in Indonesia, I offer the following:

    1. For heaven’s sake if middle aged or beyond, spend the extra $5 and upgrade the ticket, seat, airline. Backpacking is cool in your teens and twenties but just plain stingy as you get older. Indonesia is the same as anywhere else you get what you pay for.

    2. Use a bag boy, one lousy dollar a bag and you don’t have to fight the feeding frenzy at baggage collection. Go outside and enjoy a coffee, the vast majority of bag boys are now numbered so identification later is easy and I have never lost a bag. Remember Indonesians are normally fairly placid but you really don’t want to between a counter, collection point and the mob.

    3. Enjoy the game, you know the mob will make a rush for the door. So stand up quickly and block the isle. Stand your ground and watch the mob get more and more agitated as they cannot complete the early spawning run to the front of the plane.

    4. Enjoy the game, line up for your ticket at the counter but look slightly distracted, have a bet with yourself on how long before some ignoramus pushes in front of you (30 seconds is current best time). Then firmly gasp the should and whilst smiling pull them back behind you should have actually already placed down their voucher calmly and pick it up and put aside reclaiming your position and start the game again.

    5. Enjoy the game, you know your bag will be tampered with on a transit flight so make it fun. A bottle of “adulterated” (nothing harmful, after all it is humour we are after) wine is always a goodie. You are actually disappointed on the rare occasion the bottle actually gets all the way home (This is also a goodie when some over zealous security numpty decides there is a four bottle maximum limit on domestic transit).

    6. Be prepared for delays and overnights. Hotels in Indonesia are cheap so enjoy the distraction.

    7. Always but always pay the $5 and use the lounges (or use your credit card access) life does not have to be miserable.

    8. Buy an IPAD, who cares if the plane is late. Watch the news or better the latest episode of DEXTER..The numpty who has mucked you around will never know why you have looked up from the IPAD and grinned your evil grin..but you will.

    Lastly, get real for all its faults I would rather be stuck in Indonesia with a plane delay than Australia or any other western country…Lay back, enjoy the massage (available at most airports or close by) and who knows you just might have an happy ending!

  3. Oigal says:

    oops sorry for the grammar..I am on a plane..

  4. Chris says:

    Another Italian has been arrested in Bali, this time for crimes committed in his homeland.

    Police arrest mafia boss living life of luxury in Bali

    I wonder whether this Italian mafia boss still have to pay “protection money” to local security guards, or would he just make them an offer they couldn’t refuse?

  5. Tony says:

    Is not a joke say there is a bomb into an airplane.

    Well done by indonesian police.

    A german tourist has done the same in an Italian airport some time ago.

    The difference he has sent home and not in prison.

    by me better indonesian law than italian one

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