Andhika Prasetia and Rachmadi Rasyad, West Bandung – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's vice presidential running mate Ma'ruf Amin says that he proposed the release of Al-Mu'min Islamic boarding school leader Abu Bakar Bashir back in 2018. But at the time, Bashir still had to submit an appeal for clemency with President Widodo.
"It's true, I did suggest it. But at the time, technically he still had to appeal for clemency. But his family did not want to appeal for clemency, so it was difficult to release him. But now we've found another reason, namely for humanitarian reasons", Amin said following a goodwill meeting with ulama [Islamic clerics] at the Riyadlul Huda Ngamprah Islamic boarding school in West Bandung, West Java province, on Sunday January 20.
Amin is grateful to God because now Bashir can be freed unconditionally. The plan for Bashir's release was conveyed earlier by Widodo because of his age. "Yes I'm very thankful to God. Because indeed I said that he is already old, feeble and should indeed by released", said Amin.
Bashir is now 80-year-old. He was sentenced to 18 years jail by the South Jakarta District Court in June 2011 after being found guilty of planning and collecting funds to pay for the military training of terrorist groups in Indonesia's northern-most province of Aceh.
Speaking on a separate occasion, Amin explained Widodo's decision to release Bashir had been taken after careful consideration.
"The government has policies on law enforcement which are humanitarian in character, that I think is why Pak [Mr] Jokowi took this step", Amin said after meeting with election volunteers at the Cigugur Girang village in West Bandung regency.
Quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald, Jan Laczynski, who lost five friends in the 2002 Bali bombing, said that Widodo should reconsider the plan to release Bashir.
Responding to his, Amin said that that Bashir's release is a domestic matter. "I think that this is a domestic matter", said Amin.
Earlier, Widodo said that his decision to release Bashir was taken after lengthy consideration and that he received input from several people including Police Chief General (Kapolri) Tito Karnavian and the Widodo-Amin presidential election campaign team's lawyer, Yusril Ihza Mahendra.
"It was a lengthy consideration. A consideration of security issues with the Kapolri, with experts, finally with Pak [Mr] Yusril. But the process will be handled by Kapolri", Widodo told journalists at the Darul Arqam Islamic boarding school on Jl. Ciledug, Garut, West Java on Friday January 18.
Under Indonesian law a clemency can only be granted if a convict admits their guilt and pledges not to reoffend, neither of which Bashir is willing to do. Widodo's decision to release Bashir on "humanitarian ground" was also made despite the fact that he insists on defying another condition of parole that requires him to express loyalty to the state ideology of Pancasila and the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI), which is also stipulated under the law on sentence reduction, including for those convicted of terrorism.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Ma'ruf Amin Sempat Usulkan Pembebasan Abu Bakar Ba'asyir Tahun Lalu".]