BOGOR (INDONESIA) – On Friday Indonesia released the suspected mastermind of the 2002 Bali bombings, Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir , from prison.
Eddy Hartono of Indonesia’s anti-terrorism agency stated that Bashir would now undergo a deradicalization programme amid concerns over his continued influence in extremist circles.
Photographs showed Bashir wearing a white robe, white cap and a face mask as he left the prison in Bogor, south of Jakarta. He was then picked up by his family and was being driven to his home in central Java, said a spokeswoman for the corrections directorate general at the law and human rights ministry.
“Abu Bakar Bashir was released from Gunung Sindur prison at 5.30 am,” spokeswoman Rika Aprianti told reporters, adding that he was healthy on his departure.
Bashir, 82, who is regarded as the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), a jihadist network with ties to al Qaeda, was imprisoned in 2011 for 15 years for his links to a militant training camp in Aceh province.
After receiving periodic reductions in his jail term, he served 10 years in prison.
Despite claims by the Indonesian police and Western intelligence agencies that Bashir was linked to the Bali attacks that killed 202 people and a 2003 attack on the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta, he denied those ties and was never convicted for them.
Zulkarnaen, a man believed to be one of the most senior members of JI and involved in making the bombs for the attacks, was arrested last month.
Thiolina Marpaung, an Indonesian wounded in the 2002 attacks, said she wanted authorities to keep supervising Bashir.
“We don’t know what he was doing in prison,” she said by telephone. “The government has to still assert control over terrorism actors in Indonesia who have been out of jail.”
Bashir pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2014 while in jail.
Ahead of Bashir’s release his son Abdul Rohim told that his father would return to the Al Mukmin Islamic boarding school near Solo in Central Java province, which Bashir founded in the 1970s and whose graduates in the past have been linked to militant networks and attacks.
“He has completed his term. This is purely over,” Rohim said, adding that he would conduct Islamic preaching.
Security analysts say that although Bashir does not wield as much power over JI or other groups, he could still influence other militants.
“Bashir is an ideologue, his words will be followed and made examples of,” said analyst Stanislaus Riyanta.