JAKARTA – Indonesia’s top terrorist convict Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of South-east Asia’s terror group Jemaah Islamiah (JI), was released from prison early on Friday (Jan 8).
The radical cleric, 82, has been in jail since his arrest in 2009.
In 2011, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for funding a training camp for terrorists in Indonesia’s westernmost province of Aceh.
The release comes after the usual remission of a sentence, for reasons including ill health. Bashir suffered from chronic venous insufficiency, which usually leads to swelling in the legs.
Ms Rika Apriyanti, the Law and Human Rights Ministry spokesman for prisons, said that Bashir was picked by his family and lawyers at Gunung Sindur prison in Bogor, West Java, on Friday morning.
She said he had tested negative for Covid-19, adding that those picking him up were required to show negative Covid-19 test results as part of health protocols instituted amid the pandemic.
Bashir, who was also accompanied by his doctors, left the prison early in the morning and was due to travel to his home in Sukaharjo, near Central Java’s city of Solo, Tribunnews reported.
The cleric was the alleged mastermind of Indonesia’s deadliest terrorist attack – the 2002 bombings in the resort island of Bali which killed 202 people. However, he was never convicted for the attack.
In December 2018, Bashir, who is married and has three children, was offered early release on humanitarian grounds by the government due to his deteriorating health. But it was on the condition that he had to first pledge allegiance to the Republic of Indonesia as well as state ideology Pancasila, as is required of all reformed terrorists. He refused the offer.
National Counterterrorism Agency’s director for law enforcement Eddy Hartono said on Thursday that the deradicalisation of Bashir would continue after his release.
“We hope Abu Bakar Bashir will deliver peaceful sermons,” he was quoted as saying by Kompas TV.
The police have also said they would monitor Bashir’s movements.