Bashir moved ahead of Bali bombings anniversary

This story originally appeared in The Straits Times Premium on Oct 8, 2012.

JAKARTA - Jailed radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir has been transferred from Jakarta to a high security prison on an island, in an abrupt move ahead of the 10th anniversary of the Oct 12 Bali bombings.

Indonesian police said Bashir arrived on Saturday morning at the Batu Penitentiary on Nusa Kambangan Island, near the Central Java town of Cilacap, and dubbed Indonesia's Alcatraz.

Bashir's assistant, Mr Hasyim Abdullah, who visited him daily at the national police headquarters' detention centre in Jakarta, told the Jakarta Globe that the cleric was informed of the transfer less than two hours before he was moved out at 10.45pm on Friday night.

Bashir called Mr Hasyim later to tell him what had happened.

"Bashir has done his trial, so the decision on where he should be detained lies with the state penitentiary directorate- general," police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar said in an SMS reply to The Straits Times yesterday.

The directorate-general's spokesman did not respond to The Straits Times' queries.

Bashir is regarded as the spiritual leader of the regional terror group Jemaah Islamiah, which is linked to Al-Qaeda and which is blamed for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people and other attacks in Indonesia.

The white-bearded cleric was sentenced to 15 years in jail in June last year after being found guilty of helping to fund the setting up of a terrorist training camp in Aceh and its operations.

Police had raided the camp in February 2010.

The militants there were allegedly planning to launch Mumbai-style gun attacks on foreigners in Jakarta, as well as to assassinate moderate leaders, including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Bashir is also said to have been responsible for inspiring radicals behind the suicide attacks on a police mosque in Cirebon, West Java, in April last year, and a church bombing in September last year.