Indonesia decides not to release Bashir, Latest World News - The New Paper

Indonesia decides not to release Bashir

This article is more than 12 months old

Review underway on whether to free 81-year-old

JAKARTA: The fate of Abu Bakar Bashir is now in his own hands even as a review of an earlier decision to release the convicted terrorist leader is underway, said a senior aide of President Joko Widodo.

Mr Bey Machmudin told The Straits Times yesterday that Bashir will need to decide if he is willing to submit to the government's conditions before he can be granted early release from his 15-year jail term.

"The President did not say 'cancel'," said Mr Bey, who is deputy to state secretary in charge of state protocol and media affairs at the Istana.

"It is all up to Abu Bakar Bashir now, as there are conditions that must be met (before he can be freed)."

Mr Bey was commenting on reports in local media yesterday that Mr Joko had called off Bashir's release.

Jakarta Post had earlier reported that the 81-year-old refused to pledge loyalty to the state.

Convicts eligible for early release are required to pledge loyalty to the state and its secular ideology, known as Pancasila, and not to repeat their crimes.

President Widodo previously planned to release the jailed spiritual leader of Al-Qaeda-affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) on humanitarian grounds, citing old age and deteriorating health, Jakarta Post reported.

Bashir has been in prison since 2011.

He received a 15-year sentence for funding a military training camp for terrorists in Aceh.

He is currently detained at the Gunung Sindur prison in Bogor, West Java, and has received treatment for chronic venous insufficiency, blood clots and varicose veins in his leg since 2017.

The president said in a statement on Tuesday it would be a "conditional release", a day after the chief security minister said the decision was being reviewed.

Mr Widodo had come under fire at home over the possible release, Reuters reported.

Critics have accused him of trying to win over religious conservatives ahead of a presidential election set for April 17.

Some members of the ruling coalition, including officials in Mr Widodo's party, feared Bashir's release would alienate moderate Muslim and non-Muslim voters.