Jakarta – Terror convict and firebrand cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, who was closely linked to the 2002 Bali bombings, is expected to walk free this week after serving the bulk of his original 15-year prison sentence.
The 82-year-old preacher, who was once the spiritual leader of one of Indonesia's most notorious militant extremist movements, was convicted of funding a terrorist training camp in the religiously conservative Aceh province in 2011.
He will be released on Jan. 8 "as his sentence ends and expires", said Rika Aprianti, a spokeswoman for the Law and Human Rights Ministry's corrections directorate general.
Ba'asyir has accumulated 55 months of sentence reductions, which are often granted to prisoners based on the length of their sentence, religious holiday exemptions and illness, according to an official at the West Java Law and Human Rights Agency quoted by tribunnews.com.
The cleric's legal team had previously appealed for early release, citing the inmate's old age. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo nearly granted the request, but later reversed his position after protests from the Australian government, as well as from survivors and relatives of the victims of the Bali bombings.
Mujiarto, the warden of the Gunung Sindur Detention Center in West Java, said the preacher had recently been ill.
"He was sick and was treated at Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital from Nov. 24 to Dec. 10 and was returned to Gunung Sindur after recovering," Mujiarto said.
Ba'asyir's family plans to limit the number of people who greet him upon his release as a COVID-19 precaution, according to Abdul Rahim Ba'asyir, the preacher's son.
"It would be dangerous if we were to see a lot of people. [...] Even though there will be people who want to visit him for the sake of silaturahmi [maintaining relationships], we will put a limit on it," Abdul said.
Rika said the ministry had enlisted the help of the National Police's Densus 88 antiterror squad and the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) to provide security during the cleric's release.
"We will also coordinate with his family and other related parties," she said, as quoted by kompas.com.
The South Jakarta District Court sentenced Ba'asyir to 15 years in prison in 2011. The ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2012.
A key figure in the Jemaah Islamiyah militant group, the cleric was previously jailed for his involvement in the 2002 Bali bombings but was acquitted in a 2006 case review.
At the time, Ba'asyir was a supervisor at Al-Mukmin Ngruki Islamic boarding school in Sukoharjo, Central Java.
To justify Jokowi's revoked clemency, the State Palace announced in January 2019 that Ba'asyir was ineligible for release because he had declined to pledge loyalty to the state ideology Pancasila and the Republic of Indonesia, special requirements for terror convicts seeking parole.
National Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Ahmad Ramadhan said the police would continue to keep tabs on Ba'asyir's activities after his release. "Our intelligence unit always keeps tabs on anyone who has committed a crime, whatever that crime is," he said.
Ba'asyir's planned release follows a government ban on the reactionary Islam Defenders Front (FPI) on Dec. 30, over allegations of public order disruptions and legal violations. Some observers have criticized the ban as undemocratic.
In 2017, the government disbanded Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, another radical Muslim group, for conducting activities it deemed contradictory to Pancasila and the unitary state. (ami)