Indonesia’s top terrorist convict Abu Bakar Bashir released from prison

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 militant training camp in Indonesia’s westernmost province of Aceh. 

The release comes after the usual remission of a sentence, for reasons including ill health. Bashir has chronic venous insufficiency, which usually leads to swelling in the legs.

Abu Bakar Bashir leaving the Gunung Sindur prison in Bogor, on the outskirts of Jakarta, on Jan 8, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

Ms Rika Apriyanti, the Law and Human Rights Ministry spokesman for prisons, said that Bashir’s family and lawyers picked him up at Gunung Sindur prison in Bogor, West Java.

She said he had tested negative for Covid-19, adding that those met him were required to also show negative Covid-19 test results as part of health protocols instituted amid the pandemic. 

Accompanied by his two sons, Abdul Rochim and Abdul Rosyid, his three lawyers, and a doctor from Medical Emergency Rescue Committee (Mer-C), the cleric left the prison after morning prayer and went to Al-Mukmin Islamic boarding school in Ngruki, Sukoharjo, near the Central Java city of Solo.

“There will be no special event (to welcome him),” said Mr Hasyim Abdullah, one of the lawyers, told The Straits Times in a text message.

Abu Bakar Bashir entering a van to leave the Gunung Sindur prison in Bogor, on the outskirts of Jakarta, on Jan 8, 2021.PHOTO: AFP PHOTO / INDONESIA NATIONAL PRISON

Bashir was the alleged mastermind of Indonesia’s deadliest terrorist attack – the 2002 bombings on the resort island of Bali which killed 202 people. He was never convicted for the attack. 

JI, widely believed to have a link with Al-Qaeda, was considered to be behind several attacks, including the JW Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta in 2003 that killed 12 people. 

Reacting to Bashir’s release, Ms Thiolina Ferawati Marpaung, a victim of the 2002 Bali bombing, hoped that the authorities would continue to supervise him.

“His movements must be closely watched,” the 47-year old, whose eyes were permanently damaged by the bombing told ST over the phone from Denpasar. “We don’t know what he was thinking while in prison, either it’s positive or negative.” 

Bashir pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in 2014 while in prison. 

His long history of militancy can be traced to the early 1980s when he was accused of agitating people to resist the state ideology Pancasila and was later sentenced to nine years in jail. 

In 1985 he managed to flee to Malaysia, where he founded the JI in the early 1990s. He radicalised several Malaysians, including bomb experts Azahari Husin and Noordin Mohammad Top. Many Singaporean JI members also studied with Bashir at a school in Johor. 

In December 2018, Bashir, who is married and has three children, was offered early release by the government on humanitarian grounds b due to his deteriorating health.

But it was on the condition that he had to first pledge allegiance to the country and Pancasila, as is required for 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 and soothing sermons,” he was quoted as saying by Kompas TV. 

The police have also said they would monitor his movements.

By : Linda Yulisman – THE STRAITS TIMES

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