Abu Bakar Ba'asyir: Radical cleric linked to Bali bombings freed

A radical Muslim cleric linked to the 2002 Bali bombings has been freed amid concerns over his ongoing influence on extremists.
Abu Bakar Ba’asyir was picked up by his family from a jail outside Indonesia’s capital Jakarta early on Friday.
The 82-year-old is the former head of Jemaah Islamiah, an al-Qaeda-inspired group behind the attack that killed 202 people.
Authorities say he will enter a deradicalisation programme.
People from 21 nations died in the blasts on 12 October 2002 on the popular holiday island of Bali. The two bombs had ripped through Paddy’s Irish Bar and the nearby Sari Club in the Kuta tourist district.
It remains to this day Indonesia’s deadliest terrorist attack.
The release has drawn mixed reactions in Indonesia as well as Australia, where most of the victims were from. Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was “distressing” for victims’ families and that “it’s sometimes not a fair world”.

Why was Ba’asyir released?

The firebrand preacher was freed after completing a jail term for a conviction unrelated to the bombings.
He had been sentenced to 15 years in jail in 2011 for supporting militant training in conservative Aceh province, but the term was later cut due to sentence reductions. Officials reportedly said he had “served his punishment well”.
Previously Ba’asyir had been jailed in 2005 for conspiracy over the Bali bombings, but this conviction was overturned on appeal.
He has always denied any involvement in terrorism.

How was he linked to the Bali attacks?

Some described the cleric as the “mastermind” behind the blasts but his exact role remains unclear.
Sidney Jones, director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta, said operational decisions were headed by someone else in JI but Ba’asyir would have given a “de-facto green light”.
“He didn’t plan it. But he is the person who could have stopped it if he said no.”
Ba’asyir later broke off with JI, going on to found another extremist group, Jamaah Anshorut Tauhid.

What has the reaction been to his release?

Ahead of the cleric’s release Garil Arnandha, whose father was among the bombing victims, told the BBC: “I don’t agree with Abu Bakar Ba’asyir being released because in my opinion he is still very dangerous and has the potential to revive terrorism in Indonesia.”
Endang, his mother, had a different view.
“As a bomb victim I have forgiven him,” she told the BBC.
“He has served time in jail for his crimes and I really hope he will return to the right path. I am worried but I am trying to have positive thinking because the trauma of losing my husband in the bombing has been horrific.” Source: BBC