'Bashir must fulfil conditions to walk free'

VIDEO: REUTERS
President Joko Widodo has ordered a review into the decision of the early release on medical grounds of jailed radical cleric (left) Abu Bakar Bashir, 80, the mastermind of the 2002 Bali bombings. The President had on Tuesday said Bashir would be rel
President Joko Widodo has ordered a review into the decision of the early release on medical grounds of jailed radical cleric (above) Abu Bakar Bashir, 80, the mastermind of the 2002 Bali bombings. The President had on Tuesday said Bashir would be released from prison only if he pledged allegiance to the Republic of Indonesia and the state ideology Pancasila.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

The fate of Abu Bakar Bashir is now in his own hands, even as a review of an earlier decision to release the convicted terrorist leader is under way, said a senior aide to President Joko Widodo.

Mr Bey Machmudin said yesterday that Bashir will need to decide if he is willing to submit to the government's conditions before he can be granted early release from his 15-year jail term.

"The President did not say 'cancel'," said Mr Bey, who is deputy to the state secretary in charge of state protocol and media affairs at the Istana. "It is all up to Abu Bakar Bashir now, as there are conditions that must be met (before he can be freed)."

He was commenting on reports in local media yesterday that Mr Joko had called off Bashir's release.

The President had on Tuesday said Bashir would be released from prison only if he pledged allegiance to the Republic of Indonesia and the state ideology Pancasila, as is required of all reformed terrorists.

Mr Joko said he had left it to Bashir and his family to decide on this, while a government team - consisting of relevant security ministries, police and Indonesia's counterterrorism agency - which has been tasked to review legal aspects of a possible conditional release for Bashir, is still looking into the matter.

Some local reports, citing Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko, who goes by just one name, as saying that the plan to free Bashir had been cancelled, "because the requirements could not be negotiated". Mr Moeldoko was referring to the plan to give Bashir a conditional release as was first announced last Friday, before the government backtracked and formed the review team.

 
 
 
 

Mr Bey said the offer to release 80-year-old Bashir was based on humanitarian aspects, while the existing law must be upheld.

Law Minister Yasonna Laoly told reporters on Tuesday that the government review team was studying and evaluating Bashir's ideology and checking his concept of the Republic of Indonesia, as any terrorist inmate granted a parole must be loyal to the nation.

Mr Joko faced widespread criticism after a legal adviser on his presidential campaign said Bashir, the spiritual leader of South-east Asia terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah (JI), would be given an unconditional release, based on humanitarian grounds due to his deteriorating health.

JI was responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings, Indonesia's deadliest terrorist attack in which 202 people were killed, 88 of them Australians.

The move to release Bashir drew strong criticism both domestically and internationally - especially from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison - with Bashir still seen as a threat. Bashir has been in jail since his arrest in 2009, and was in 2011 sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment for funding a terrorist training camp in Indonesia's westernmost province of Aceh.

Critics of the contemplated parole for Bashir claim the decision to release him was politically motivated, with Mr Joko seeking to burnish his Islamic credentials.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2019, with the headline ''Bashir must fulfil conditions to walk free''. Print Edition | Subscribe