Abu Bakar Bashir, 82, once synonymous with militant Islam in the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation, leaves Gunung Sindur Penitentiary in Bogor after being released on Jan. 8. (Photo: Aditya Aji/AFP)
An 82-year-old terror network leader believed to be the mastermind behind the deadly 2002 Bali bombings in Indonesia was released from prison on Jan. 8.
Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah terror network, had been serving a 15-year prison sentence for funding a terrorist training camp in Aceh province.
He was jailed in 2011 but his term was cut due to regular sentence reductions handed to most prisoners in the Muslim-majority country.
The hardline cleric had previously served more than two years after being convicted in 2005 for his role in inspiring militants behind the Bali terrorist attack that killed more than 200 people, mostly Western foreigners.
Bashir, who denied being involved in the attacks, was later released after successfully appealing his conviction.
Law and Human Rights Ministry spokeswoman Rika Aprianti told journalists that Bashir left Gunung Sindur Penitentiary in Bogor, West Java, early on Jan. 8 after testing negative for coronavirus.
He was picked up by his lawyer and family, who took him to his residence in Sukoharjo district, Central Java province, under escort from members of the anti-terror squad, Densus 88, and the National Counterterrorism Agency.
He is due to be entered into a government deradicalization program, according to officials, but his release has raised concerns he again might try to incite extremists to carry out further attacks.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called Bashir’s release “very distressing” to the families of those killed in the Bali bombings. Some 88 of those killed in the attacks were Australians.
Indonesian authorities had planned to release Bashir on humanitarian grounds due to his age and health two years ago but were forced into a U-turn following a public outcry.
Following his release on Jan. 8, Bashir’s son Abdul Rochim told Indonesian news outlet Kompas.com that his father “would spend more time at home and will preach from home” and “will limit activities as his physical condition is very weak now.”