Indonesia's radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir not qualified to request house arrest, says government

Indonesian radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir entering a courtroom in Cilacap, Central Java province, on Jan 12, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - The Indonesian government cannot entertain the request by the country's most influential militant cleric, Abu Bakar Bashir, to be placed under home detention as such a request can be filed only by a defendant who is either appealing against or awaiting a court verdict.

Since Bashir has already been convicted and is serving his 15 years' jail sentence, the 79-year-old Jemaah Islamiah (JI) spiritual leader is not qualified to even file for the request, Mr Adek Kusmanto, a spokesman for the Law and Human Rights Ministry, told The Straits Times on Monday (March 5).

Mr Adek has earlier told state news agency Antara that Bashir, however, is eligible to file a request for clemency, a presidential pardon, and could potentially be allowed to go home, as he meets all the requirements.

"He is old. His age is above 70 and he suffers chronic illness," Mr Adek said.

He added that if Bashir does not wish to go with a clemency request, he would then have to stay in jail and the government would ensure he gets proper medical treatment.

"Anytime he needs medical treatment, we will try our best to work with the National Counter Terrorism Agency (BNPT) and the hospital," Mr Adek was quoted by Antara as saying.

Last week, Bashir's lawyer Fachmi Bachmid told The Straits Times that Bashir would not apply for clemency as that would mean 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 said.

Bashir was rushed to hospital last Thursday, guarded by elite police.

Mr Adek also told The Straits Times that Bashir was not hospitalised last week and has been scheduled to go back to the hospital on Thursday for a follow-up observation of his chronic venous insufficiency, where his leg veins do not allow blood to travel back to the heart.

Bashir 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 the police raided the year before.

In April 2016, the authorities moved him from the maximum security Nusakambangan island prison in Central Java, where he was locked 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 could receive proper medical treatment, the government said.

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