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Bali bomb mastermind to walk free from jail

JAKARTA (UCAN): “This move is being seen by the public as political will, instead of goodwill. Why has this (pardon) been given directly ahead of the presidential election?” asked Al Chaidar, a terrorism expert from Malikussaleh University, Aceh province, reacting to news of the impending release of Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, the terror network leader behind the 2002 Bali bombings on compassionate grounds.
 
Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, has approved Ba’asyir’s unconditional release saying the 80-year-old cleric was “old” and “in poor health.”
 
Ba’asyir was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in 2011 for running a terrorist training camp in Aceh province, which had already been raided by security forces a year earlier.
 
Previously, Ba’asyir was convicted in 2005 for his role in inspiring militants behind the Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people and spent more than two years behind bars.
 
Political observers see a possible link between the radical cleric’s release and the upcoming elections. “It looks as though the president’s move is an attempt to win over more Muslim voters. We know the cleric is against the president,” Al Chaidar said.
 
In security terms, Ba’asyir’s release should have no impact, as his influence in terrorism circles has waned.
 
Stanislaus Riyanta, a terrorism analyst at the University of Indonesia, decried the move as a slap in the face for survivors and families of terror attack victims.
 
“No wonder the public see this move as being politically motivated,” he said.
 
The Ba’asyir’s son, Abdul Rochim Ba’asyir, welcomed the pardon.
 
“My father’s health is deteriorating and he can no longer serve his prison term,” he said.
“The most important thing is humanity. It would be inhumane if he had to stay in prison. We hope he will be released soon,” he said.
 
In a January 21 editorial, The Jakarta Post remarked, “Days after the decision was made public, officials said it was unclear if Ba’asyir was pardoned or granted conditional release. It is hard to say which. 
 
“Neither the cleric nor his lawyer have ever sought presidential pardon. The cleric is neither eligible for conditional release, despite having served two thirds of his prison sentence, because he refused to sign a letter of loyalty to the state ideology Pancasila—a requirement for all terror convicts.”
 
Pancasila (Five Principles) requires belief in God, humanitarianism, unity, democracy and justice.

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