Ganug Nugroho Adi, Surakarta and Jakarta – The sons of Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, the radical Muslim cleric who was convicted of masterminding the Bali bombings, said they were disappointed over the canceled release of their father and expressed hope that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo had not changed his mind.
Ba'asyir, who has been a notorious firebrand cleric since the Soeharto era, has been in prison since 2011 for funding a military camp to train terrorists in Jantho, Aceh.
Jokowi, who is campaigning for reelection, made a controversial move on Friday by announcing the plan for the unconditional release of the 80-year-old cleric because of his ailing health and advanced age.
The President's lawyer and campaign adviser, Yusril Ihza Mahendra, visited the cleric at Gunung Sindur prison in Bogor, West Java, and conveyed that the President had approved his freedom and exempted him from declaring his loyalty to the country and state ideology Pancasila.
The plan was later canceled after protests from the victims and family of victims of the 2002 Bali bombings, as well as objections from Australia, which lost 88 citizens in the attack.
Muhammad Rosyid, the first son of Ba'asyir, said he had forgiven the government that had complicated his father's release, but expressed hope that government officials would change their minds.
"The family prayed that God could open the hearts of those who have complicated his release," said Rosyid on Wednesday.
Ba'asyir's family, clerics and students of Al Mukmin pesantren (Islamic boarding school) in Ngruki, Central Java, had prepared a celebration to welcome Ba'asyir. A big tent had been set up on Tuesday as they were expecting Ba'asyir to arrive on Wednesday afternoon. They had sent out invitations.
"All of the santri [students] had been upbeat, but it was suddenly canceled. We are very, very disappointed. [The government] has given false hope," said pesantren director Ibnu Hanifah.
Ba'asyir's youngest son, Abdul Rohim, who was waiting at Gunung Sindur, expressed hope that the President would speak about the cancelation. Rohim had been sent by the family ahead of the planned release. It was promised that the cleric would be released on Tuesday.
"It's not the ministers or subordinates who are at fault because the first one to talk about the release was the President," he said as quoted by Antara.
He added that what the family knew so far was that Ba'asyir would be released on Tuesday, but there had been no more information from Yusril that day. "I am communicating with the prison officers, not him. But there has not been any information [from Yusril]," he said.
Gunung Sindur prison warden Sopiana said he was waiting for the government's confirmation and therefore he was still unsure about the release. "I'm still waiting for it," Sopiana said on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the State Palace confirmed that the government had decided to call off the plan because of Ba'asyir's resistance to pledging loyalty to Pancasila and the Republic of Indonesia – a special requirement for all terror convicts who seek parole as stipulated in Government Regulation No. 99/2012.
"Yes [the plan has been canceled], because the requirements could not be fulfilled," Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko said.
Ba'asyir was sentenced to 15 years in prison and has received treatment for chronic venous insufficiency, blood clots and varicose veins in his leg since 2017.
Wahyudin, the head of the Al Mukmin Foundation that manages the pesantren, said Ba'asyir's family and followers had long tried to negotiate for his release. In February, he said Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu had visited the school that the cleric cofounded.
"We put forward many reasons for his release. A good leader would forgive," he said. (ggq)