Ni Komang Erviani and Connor Foley, Denpasar and Jakarta – The government's now-canceled plan to grant Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, the spiritual leader of a terror group responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings, an early release has received a backlash from survivors of the deadly terror attack and families of the victims.
"It is not fair. As a victim, I object to it. Why would he get an early release only on humanitarian grounds when he had killed many people?" Tumini, a Bali bombing survivor, told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
Tumini was working as a bartender at Paddy's Bar in Kuta when the bombs ripped through the area, burning some parts of her body in an instant. She was mistaken as dead and taken to a hospital, where her sister later found her lying among dozens of dead bodies.
"I still can't forget the incident that killed many people. And now the mastermind would be freed? It shouldn't be that easy to release him," she said, adding that the fact that Ba'asyir refused to pledge allegiance to the state ideology was another reason why he was not supposed to be released.
"He has many followers. If he is released, he might do the same thing," she said.
Another survivor, Bambang Jatmiko, shared the view. "If he refused to sign a letter of loyalty to the state ideology, if he is not loyal to the republic, he should not be released. I am disappointed at the government if it insisted on releasing him," Bambang said.
Bambang was working at the Sari Club in Kuta on the ill-fated night. He sustained minor injuries but has been left deeply traumatized by the terror attack.
He said he did not hold a grudge against the perpetrators, however, "[Ba'asyir] doesn't deserve an early release because he has never shown remorse over what happened," he said. "I am feeling extremely anxious."
Ni Luh Erni, a Balinese woman who lost her husband to the tragedy, also rejected the government's plan, which has now been canceled after Ba'asyir refused to pledge allegiance to Pancasila.
Erni said humanitarian reasons should not be the main ground to grant the 80-year-old cleric an early release, particularly after she watched the latest video showing Ba'asyir in a relatively good condition.
"If his condition was extremely weak, that's fine. But he is still well, active [...] his mind is still active and doesn't show changes. The government should remember that he is the mastermind. If he doesn't regret his act and now he would be released, I don't know what to say," she said.
Another survivor, Gatot Indro Suranto, said he did not object to the plan, "As long as it is done based on the laws," he said.
Isaac Kfir, the director of the National Security Program and head of the Counter-Terrorism Policy Center at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said he was uncertain whether Ba'asyir still presented the same risk but noted that Indonesia must do more to address radicalization in prison.
"Ba'asyir is 80 years old, has been in and out of prison for decades, and therefore I just don't know how much pull he has with the younger generation of jihadis. I think the government is aware of what needs to be done, I just don't know if they have the appetite to do so," he said.
[Connor Foley is an intern at The Jakarta Post.]