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

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

JAKARTA, Jan 8, 2021, ST. Indonesia’s top terrorist convict Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of South-east Asia’s Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terror group, was released from prison early on Friday (Jan 8), The Straits Times reported.

The radical cleric, 82, had 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 suffers from chronic venous insufficiency, which usually leads to swelling in the legs.

Ms Rika Aprianti, the Law and Human Rights Ministry spokesman for prisons, said that Bashir was picked up 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 accompanied by his two sons – Abdul Rahim and Abdul Rosyid – as well as his three lawyers and a doctor from the Medical Emergency Rescue Committee (Mer-C), left the prison after the morning prayer. He was due to travel overland to his home in Sukoharjo, near Central Java’s city of Solo, Mr Hasyim Abdullah, one of Bashir’s lawyers, told The Straits Times in text messages.

The cleric was the alleged mastermind of Indonesia’s deadliest terrorist attack – the 2002 bombings on the resort island of Bali that 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 this was on the condition that he 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 Counter-terrorism Agency law enforcement director 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 that they would monitor Bashir’s movements.

Mr Adhe Bakti, an anti-terror expert at the Centre for Radicalisation and Deradicalisation Studies, told The Straits Times that Bashir would not likely involve in any militant groups such as JI or Jamaah Ansharusy Syariah – a JAT splinter – due to his different strategies from theirs as well as his old age, although supporters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS, banned in Russia) expect him to become a uniting figure in Indonesia.

“If militant groups think strategically, they won’t involve Abu Bakar Bashir following his release from prison because he will be under close supervision by authorities,” he said.

“His family and those in his Islamic boarding school have also vowed to restrict his movements as they don’t want him to be involved in any case anymore at his old age.”

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