Indonesia mulls plan to put radical cleric in home detention


Indonesian radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir was sentenced to 15 years in jail in 2011 for inciting others to commit terror acts and helping to fund a paramilitary training camp in Aceh.
Indonesian radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir was sentenced to 15 years in jail in 2011 for inciting others to commit terror acts and helping to fund a paramilitary training camp in Aceh.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - The Indonesian government is mulling a plan to allow the country's most influential militant cleric, Abu Bakar Bashir, to leave jail for good and be placed in home detention due to his deteriorating condition, local media reported.

The Jemaah Islamiah (JI) spiritual leader was rushed to hospital on Thursday morning (March 1), guarded by elite police forces.

Bashir, 79, was sentenced to 15 years' jail in 2011 for inciting others to commit terror acts and helping to fund a paramilitary training camp in Aceh that police raided the year before.

Local media reported Defence Minister and retired general Ryamizard Ryacudu as saying that the home detention option is a human rights gesture by the government.

"Bashir as we know is old and sickly. His feet often swelled," Kompas.com. quoted Mr Ryamizard as saying.

Presidential spokesman Johan Budi told The Straits Times on Friday (March 2) that the process of moving prisoners is under the jurisdiction of the law and human resources ministry, adding: "a home detention, by law, is a possibility".

In April 2016, the authorities moved Bashir from the maximum security Nusakambangan island prison in Central Java, where he was locked up in an isolation cell, to Gunung Sindur prison outside Jakarta.

The transfer of the founder of the South-east Asian terror network to the smaller state penitentiary near a major city was to ensure that he would be able to receive proper medical treatment, the government said.

Mr Maruf Amin, the chairman of Indonesian Ulema Council, told reporters on Wednesday (Feb 28) that he had appealed to President Joko Widodo to grant clemency to Bashir due the cleric's poor health.

"On the clemency issue, up to now I haven't received the application letter," President Joko said when asked by reporters on Friday. Under Indonesian laws, an individual must first admit that what he had done was wrong, before being considered for clemency.

However, Bashir's lawyer Mr Fachmi Bachmid told The Straits Times: "We won't apply for clemency, because clemency is a form of admitting guilt. It's certain that we won't do that."

"But we are asking for home detention. He is old and sickly. It is human rights," he added.

Mr Adhe Bhakti, a researcher at the Centre for Radicalism and Deradicalisation Studies, told The Straits Times that moving Bashir to home detention makes sense, from a human rights point of view.

"But since he is a terrorist ideologue, there are worries indeed he would again be able to spread radical ideologies. If a home detention option were taken, an 'isolation-cell' approach would still have to continue," Mr Adhe said, explaining that guests visiting Bashir would have to be limited to only close relatives.

The JI network, formed in the early 1990s by Bashir, was detected in 2001. Many of the Singapore JI members studied with him at a school he set up in Ulu Tiram in Johor, a 30-minute drive from the Causeway.

JI was behind the planting of 20 bombs that went off outside churches across Indonesia on Christmas Eve in 2000. On Oct 12, 2002, two suicide bombers from the group killed 202 people and injured dozens in Bali.

In 2013, Bashir reiterated to his followers that the current Indonesian government is illegitimate because it is based on democracy, which Bashir described as "syirik", or idolatry.