When President Joko Widodo announced that his running mate would be Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) Chairman Ma'ruf Amin, some were concerned that it represented the nation's leader's willingness to pander to ultra-conservative Muslims.
Some see those concerns as validated after the president signed off on the early parole of firebrand cleric Abu Bakar Bashir last Friday.
And now, by his own admission, Ma'ruf appears to have played a huge role in Bashir's release. During his campaign trail visit to a religious school in Bandung, West Java, yesterday, Ma'ruf revealed that he had asked President Jokowi to grant clemency to Bashir last year.
"It's true, I did suggest it. But at the time, technically we were going to appeal for clemency. But his (Bashir's) family did not want to appeal for clemency, so it was difficult to release him. But now we've found another reason, which is for humanitarian reasons," Ma'ruf said, as quoted by Detik.
Ma'ruf added that he is thankful for Bashir's unconditional release, considering the latter is already 80 years old. "The government has policies regarding law enforcement and humanitarianism, I think Pak Jokowi has taken that step," Ma'ruf said.
Bashir, a controversial Indonesian cleric known for being the spiritual leader to Jemaah Islamiyah, the regional terror group blamed for the deadly 2002 Bali bombing (though he was never convicted for involvement in the deadly attack), was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2011 for providing support to a terrorist training camp in Aceh.
He is set to be released from prison in the coming days after receiving early parole with the express permission of President Jokowi.
Many saw the freeing of Bashir as a political move by Jokowi to go after Islamist votes in April's presidential election. One political analyst said Bashir's release was good for Indonesia's current political situation but that it's a "short-term political decision with challenging long-term repercussions."
That Jokowi had political considerations in mind when freeing Bashir was also heavily implied by Yusril Izra Mahendra, legal advisor for Jokowi's re-election campaign, who said it was proof that Jokowi does not persecute or criminalize Indonesia's ulema (Islamic religious scholars), as hardliner opposition figures often accuse him of doing.