Indonesia confirms firebrand cleric Abu Bakar Bashir’s early release is off the table

Abu Bakar Bashir arriving for a court appearance on January 12, 2016. Photo: AFP
Abu Bakar Bashir arriving for a court appearance on January 12, 2016. Photo: AFP

Following a huge public outcry and some backtracking by the government, the planned early parole for firebrand cleric Abu Bakar Bashir — who is known as the spiritual leader of the regional terror group blamed for the 2002 Bali bombing — has been confirmed to have fallen through.

Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko yesterday evening said the government will not grant Bashir early parole due to his refusal to pledge allegiance to the Unitary State of Indonesia (NKRI) and the state ideology of Pancasila, which are necessary requirements for his release.

“Those requirements are not negotiable. They must be met,” Moeldoko said at the Presidential Palace, as quoted by Kompas.

Moeldoko added that President Joko Widodo wanted to sign off on Bashir’s early release on humanitarian grounds, considering that the 80-year-old Bashir is aging and requires special medical care in prison.

“Bashir’s access to medical facilities won’t be changed. That’s standard. We might even give more if needed. That’s for health and humanitarian reasons, we can’t cut back on that,” he said.

Last week, Yusril Ihza Mahendra, legal advisor to President Jokowi’s re-election campaign, said that Bashir was set to be released from prison after having received early parole with the express permission of President Jokowi. The move was welcomed by Jokowi’s running mate and Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) Chairman Ma’ruf Amin, who said he had personally asked Jokowi for Bashir’s release since last year.

Coincidentally, after a huge public outrage and stern words from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the government said they would review granting early parole to Bashir after he refused to pledge loyalty to NKRI and Pancasila, with his legal advisors saying that he has already committed his life to Allah and Islam.

President Jokowi spoke about Bashir’s planned release for the first time yesterday, when he reiterated that the firebrand cleric must meet the requirements for early parole. President Jokowi said he was not willing to “collide with the mechanisms of law” to ensure Bashir’s release.

Bashir is known for being the spiritual leader to Jemaah Islamiyah, the regional terror group blamed for the deadly 2002 Bali bombing, which killed 202 people, but his conviction was overturned on appeal. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2011 for providing support to a terrorist training camp in Aceh.

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