Indonesia's top terrorist convict Abu Bakar Bashir set to be released this week

Abu Bakar Bashir (centre) has been in jail since his arrest in 2009. PHOTO: YUSRIL IHZA MAHENDRA

JAKARTA - Indonesia's top terrorist convict Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of South-east Asia's terror group Jemaah Islamiah, is set to be released from prison on Friday (Jan 8), Indonesian authorities said on Monday.

The 82-year-old radical cleric has been in jail since his arrest in 2009.

In 2011, he was sentenced 15 years in prison for funding a training camp for terrorists in Indonesia's westernmost province of Aceh.

The head of West Java's law and human rights regional office, Mr Imam Suyudi, said that Bashir would be released from Gunung Sindur prison in Bogor on Friday after fulfilling his 15-year jail sentence, reduced by 55 months on good behaviour.

"He has served his punishment well and followed all rules and procedures," Mr Imam was quoted as saying by Antara.

He also noted that Bashir is "in good shape" ahead of his release.

Bashir's lawyer team had last year requested that the government prioritise him for early release along with other prisoners on fears of a potential coronavirus outbreak in prisons, citing his old age as a factor.

Last April, Indonesia set free 30,000 prisoners who had served two-thirds of their sentences, in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in its overcrowded prisons.

Bashir was the alleged mastermind of Indonesia's deadliest terrorist attack - the 2002 bombings in resort island of Bali which killed 202 people. He was never convicted for the attack.

In December 2018, the Indonesian cleric was offered early release on humanitarian grounds by the government due to his deteriorating health.

However, it was conditional that he must first pledge allegiance to the Republic of Indonesia and the state ideology Pancasila, as required of all reformed terrorists. Bashir refused the offer.

Separately, Indonesia's National Police spokesman Ahmad Ramadhan told reporters that the police would ensure security and order on the day of Bashir's release.

He added that it would also monitor Bashir's movements after he walks free.

"That is not only carried out for Abu Bakar Bashir. We have a special intelligence team that monitors those who have committed any crime," he said.

Bashir's release comes amid the intensified efforts of Indonesia's anti-terrorism squad, Densus 88.

In November and December 2020, it arrested 23 alleged terrorists in different places across Sumatra island. They included two men behind the Bali bombings - Taufik Bulaga, alias Upik Lawanga, and Aris Sumarsono, alias Zulkarnaen.

And last July, a Jakarta court sentenced Para Wijayanto, the key leader of Al-Qaeda-linked JI - whom terrorism experts believe is Bashir's student - to seven years in jail for his role in recruiting and training militants and raising funds for those going to Syria.

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