Jakarta/Sydney, Australia, Jan 5 (efe-epa).- Indonesia is set to release radical cleric and the alleged mastermind behind the 2002 Bali bombings, Abu Bakar Bashir, on Friday after he completes his prison sentence.
The decision was on Tuesday criticized by Australia, home to 88 of the 202 people killed in the attack 18 years ago.
Rika Aprianti, spokesperson of Indonesia’s corrections directorate, confirmed to EFE on Tuesday that 82-year Bashir would be released on Jan. 8 as his 15-year sentence – handed in 2011 – is considered to be served after he received several reductions in his term.
Bashir is considered the spiritual head of Jemaah Islamiah (YI), the Al Qaeda branch in Southeast Asia founded in 1995 to establish an Islamic caliphate in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, southern Philippines and Thailand, which has been linked with majority of the terror attacks carried out in the region.
Bashir, who has denied being involved in the Bali attacks, was jailed in 2011 for alleged links to terror training camps in Indonesia’s Aceh province, situated in northern Sumatra.
President Joko Widodo had announced last year that the cleric would be released ahead of schedule due to humanitarian reasons, considering his advanced age and fragile state of health.
Regarding possible protests against Bashir’s release, Aprianti said authorities would ensure that there is no violation of distancing norms to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said the news of Bashir’s impending release was “deeply distressing” for the family members and friends of the 88 Australians who died in the 2002 Bali bombings and 4 other citizens who died in another attack carried out by the same group in Bali in 2005, apart from the numerous wounded.
“Australia has always called for those involved to face tough, proportionate and just sentences,” said the minister, adding that the Australian embassy in Jakarta had expressed its concerns in this regard to the Indonesian government.
Bashir’s release comes a month after Indonesian anti-terror forces arrested Aris Sumarsono, aka Zulkarnaen, the alleged military head of YI who has been accused of taking part in the 2002 Bali bombings. EFE-EPA