Indonesia to review release of Bali bombers' 'spiritual leader'

Indonesia to review release of Bali bombers' 'spiritual leader' Abu Bakar Baasyir
2 min read
21 January, 2019
Indonesia's government has said it is reviewing a decision to release radical cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir following local and international outrage.
Abu Bakar Ba'asyir was jailed for 15 years for running a terror training camp [AFP]

Indonesia's government is reviewing a decision by the president to release radical cleric Abu Bakar Baasyir, the country's top security minister said on Monday, following domestic and international criticism.

Wiranto told a hastily called news conference that President Joko Widodo had asked him to coordinate a review of all aspects of the planned release.

"On the basis of humanitarian considerations, the president is very understanding of the family's request [for release]," Wiranto said. "However it still needs to be considered by other aspects."

Baasyir, the spiritual leader of bombers who attacked nightclubs on Bali island in 2002, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2011.

Widodo on Friday said he had agreed to release the 80-year-old cleric on humanitarian grounds, amid ongoing campaigning for April's presidential election.

Critics have accused Widodo of deciding to release Baasyir as a means of countering rivals who have questioned his committment to Islam.

A key lobbyist for Baasyir's release was Yusril Ihza Mahendra, an adviser to Widodo's re-election campaign who also heads an up-and-coming Islamic Party.

Baasyir had previously been considered ineligible for parole because of his refusal to renounce radical beliefs. 

The firebrand cleric was arrested almost immediately after the 2002 Bali bombings. Most of the 202 people killed in the bombings were foreigners, including dozens of Australians.

But prosecutors were unable to prove a string of terrorism-related allegations, and Bashir was instead sentenced to 18 months in prison for immigration violations.

Baasyir was jailed again in 2011, when he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for supporting a military-style training camp for Islamic militants. Basyir, an Indonesian of Hadrami descent, was also a founder of an Islamic boarding school in the Javanese city of Solo that terrorism experts regarded as a factory for violent extremists.

While incarcerated in 2014, the firebrand cleric pledged alleigance to the Islamic State group.