Indonesia denies releasing 350 Jemaah Islamiah terrorist inmates

In this file photograph taken on June 16, 2011, radical Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir waves from a prison van after he was sentenced to 15 years by the court in Jakarta for terrorism charges. Indonesian police and prison authorities denied
In this file photograph taken on June 16, 2011, radical Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir waves from a prison van after he was sentenced to 15 years by the court in Jakarta for terrorism charges. Indonesian police and prison authorities denied Friday reports in the Malaysian media of Jakarta releasing 350 ex-Jemaah Islamiah detainees. -- PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - Indonesian police and prison authorities denied Friday reports in the Malaysian media of Jakarta releasing 350 ex-Jemaah Islamiah detainees.

Malaysia's Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was quoted as saying on Thursday the authorities are on the alert following the expected release of these terrorists from prisons in Indonesia.

"The police are working with their Indonesian counterparts to secure the full list of prisoners released," he told a press conference at the police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

Datuk Seri Zahid also said JI bomb expert, Malaysian Taufik Abdul Halim, 39, would be sent back to Malaysia on Friday after being incarcerated in Indonesia for 12 years.

But asked about the report, Indonesia's national police spokesman Brigadier General Boy Rafli Amar told The Straits Times: "It is not possible. Typically in one year, we have had 50 plus terrorist inmates finishing their term.

"That's in one whole year, not in a day."

Asked whether there would be any release of militants today, he said: "I have to check. I haven't been informed of any terrorist inmate finishing prison time today. We are usually informed by the law ministry when there is any."

Director-General of Penitentaries Handoyo Sudrajat dismissed the reports about the release.

"There is no release. There is no one being released, let alone 350 terrorist inmates," he told Detik.com online news portal.

There are about 274 terrorist inmates in our prisons across several places in Indonesia, according to Detik.

"They say there is a release. Let them be," Handoyo was quoted as saying.

In Kuala Lumpur, asked about the report, Malaysian police counter-terrorism chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay told The Straits Times that the release would be carried out in stages over the next two years, and not all of them on Friday.

WAHYUDI SOERIAATMADJA & SHANNON TEOH