Indonesia reviews release of cleric linked to Bali bombings

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged Indonesia to show respect for those killed in the Bali bombings as the nation reviews its decision to release alleged mastermind Abu Bakar Bashir.

Radical Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir in court in 2016. Photo: AP/Agus Fitrah

Radical Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir in court in 2016. Photo: AP/Agus Fitrah

Indonesia’s security minister, Wiranto, told a hastily called news conference on Monday night that President Joko Widodo had asked him to co-ordinate a review of all aspects of the planned release, The Associated Press reports.

Bashir, 81, had previously been considered ineligible for parole because of his refusal to renounce radical beliefs. His family had requested his release since 2017 because of his age and deteriorating health.

“On the basis of humanitarian considerations, the president is very understanding of the family’s request,” Wiranto said. “However, it still needs to be considered by other aspects.”

Morrison says the review comes after Australia has conveyed to Indonesia “at the highest level” its strong views on Bashir.

“Two things are important. One is, respect must be shown for the lives of those who are lost,” he told 4CA Radio in Cairns today.

“And it’s important that this character doesn’t get the opportunity to go and spread and incite hatred, if under their system – and it’s their system – he were to be released.”

Bashir is considered the spiritual leader of Islamist group Jemaah Islamiah, which was implicated in the 2002 Bali bombings.

The radical Muslim cleric was convicted of terrorism charges in 2010 over links to militant training camps in Aceh province and jailed for 15 years.

But Widodo said on Friday Bashir would be granted early release from jail on humanitarian grounds.

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Eighty-eight of the more than 200 people killed in the 2002 bombings of Bali nightclubs were Australians, and Canberra has previously urged against leniency for Bashir.

Morrison said it is Indonesia’s call to make on Bashir’s release but that he will be disappointed if it goes ahead.

“I would obviously be very disappointed about that, like other Australians would, and will register that disappointment and quite strong feelings about that,” he said.

“We don’t want this character able to go out there and incite the killing of Australians and Indonesians, preaching a doctrine of hate.”


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