Heru Andriyanto, Jakarta – After serving more than nine years in prison for a graft conviction, former Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum said on Tuesday he will enjoy a taste of freedom with the family and reconnect with old friends, telling news broadcaster BTV that political agenda can wait.
Anas was released from Sukamiskin Penitentiary in Bandung after getting parole ahead of the expiration of his prison time and was welcomed by hundreds of supporters who had waited for hours at the prison entrance since in the morning.
As he walked out of prison, Anas told his political opponents that he's not done with them yet.
"To those who think that I will be dying and rotting in prison ... I'm sorry that's not the case," Anas said.
"Praise be to God, with close support from my family and friends, I exist and stand up straight. So here I am, not just alive but also healthy and sane."
in the exclusive interview conducted shortly after his release, Anas said he had no particular names in mind when delivering the message.
"But if someone feels that the message is directed at him, that's none of my business," Anas told BTV news anchor Fristian Griec.
Having made history by becoming a part of the General Election Commission (KPU) leadership that organized the country's first-ever direct presidential election in 2004 before another successful spell with the Democratic Party, he seems to accept the fact that he cannot regain his political career anytime soon.
The court sentence includes Anas being deprived of his political rights for five years beginning from the day of his release.
"It's my intention to avoid talking about politics in the first days of my freedom. I want to share the moment with my family and friends," the 53-year-old said.
"I need to relax and arrange get-togethers because I owe them more than nine years of my time."
Anas joined the Democratic Party soon after resigning from the KPU and won the House of Representatives seat in 2009, the year when the party won the election.
He was one of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's most trusted aides at that time as the ruling party appointed him as the head of the Democratic Party caucus in the House.
Anas continued to run through the ranks and in July 2010 he was elected chairman of the Democratic Party, which required him to vacate his House seat. At just 40 years old, he was one of the youngest party leaders in Indonesia.
"We can talk about politics later on," he insisted when Fristian asked about a potential comeback to politics.
He said his first day in prison was the eve of Ramadan in 2014 and he got freedom halfway through the Muslim holy month this year. "For me, it's like a blessing from God," he said.
"And also my youngest daughter was just granted entry to the Faculty of Medicine of Airlangga University, my former school," Anas added.
"It's just one part of the beautiful story that when her father was being incarcerated by iniquity, a blessing from God was sent through my daughter."
He also thanked hundreds of supporters who packed the Bandung prison waiting for his release.
"Without friends, Anas is nobody. So let's keep serious questions for later. But Anas today is the same person as before – he's nothing but a boy who happens to have many friends," he said.
Anas was detained by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in January 2014, nearly a year after he was named a suspect for corruption scandals related to sports training and education projects in Hambalang, West Java, and other infrastructure projects.
He was convicted of corruption and sentenced to eight years in prison in September 2014, just a month before SBY – the nickname of the former president – completed his second presidential term.
But his term was added by another two years for failing to repay tens of billions of rupiah of the stolen state money as ordered by the court.
In total, he has served nine years and three months behind bars without sentence cuts since January 2014, except for the parole prior to the expiration of his sentence.
The legal trouble effectively ended his bright political career and drastically overturned his relationship with SBY, from previously one of the former president's most trusted aides to a political opponent.