Radical cleric behind Bali bombing to be freed from prison

The firebrand preacher Abu Bakar Bashir was sentenced to 15 years in jail for helping fund a paramilitary group training in the conservative Islamic province of Aceh. (AP)
Updated 18 January 2019
0

Radical cleric behind Bali bombing to be freed from prison

  • Abu Bakar Bashir is believed to have been a key figure in terror network Jemaah Islamiyah
  • ‘He is old ... and his health condition was also part of the consideration’

JAKARTA: A radical cleric thought to be the spiritual leader of the Bali bombers will be released from prison on medical grounds, Indonesia’s president said Friday.
Abu Bakar Bashir, 80, is believed to have been a key figure in terror network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), which was blamed for the 2002 bombings on the holiday island which killed more than 200 people, mostly foreign tourists.
It was Indonesia’s deadliest militant attack and prompted Jakarta to beef up anti-terror cooperation with the US and Australia, which has previously opposed clemency for Bashir.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Friday that he had agreed to order the ailing preacher’s release from a prison on the outskirts of the capital.
“The first reason is humanitarian,” Widodo told reporters.
“He is old ... and his health condition was also part of the consideration.”
Widodo did not say when Bashir would be released, but one of the cleric’s lawyers said it could be as early as next week.
Bashir, speaking from Gunung Sindur prison, welcomed the news.
“If I am released, I’ll praise Allah,” he told reporters, adding he was not hostile to the state.
In 2011, the firebrand preacher — once synonymous with militant Islam in Indonesia — was sentenced to 15 years in jail for helping fund a paramilitary group training in the conservative Islamic province of Aceh.
Bashir, the co-founder of an infamous Islamic boarding school known for producing militants, was jailed after authorities in the world’s biggest Muslim majority country broke up the camp.
Several militants convicted over their involvement in the Bali bombings have been executed while two others, including Malaysian Noordin Mohammed Top, were killed in police raids in 2009 and 2010.
Bashir, who has repeatedly denied involvement in terror attacks, was also previously jailed over the Bali bombings but that conviction was quashed on appeal.
Al-Qaeda-linked JI was founded by a handful of exiled Indonesian militants in Malaysia in the 1980s, and grew to include cells across Southeast Asia.
As well as the 2002 Bali bombings, the radical group was blamed for a deadly 2003 car bomb at the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta and a suicide car bomb the following year outside the Australian embassy.
An anti-terror crackdown weakened some of Indonesia’s most dangerous networks, including Jemaah Islamiyah.
The Daesh group proved to be a potent rallying cry for Indonesia’s radicals, with hundreds traveling to the Middle East to join the militants.
Last year, a wave of deadly suicide bombings at churches and a police post rocked Indonesia’s second biggest city Surabaya.
Those attacks were carried out by families — including children — linked to local extremist network Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, which has pledged allegiance to Daesh.


Philippines warns journalists out to ‘destroy’ Duterte

Updated 22 min 17 sec ago
0

Philippines warns journalists out to ‘destroy’ Duterte

  • The warning followed recent local news reports alleging the Duterte family's involvement in illegal drugs
  • Panelo said the government has "never stifled dissent in this country"

MANILA: The Philippine government on Monday warned the press against plotting to "destroy" President Rodrigo Duterte's government, as his spokesman accused journalists of spreading fake news.
The warning followed recent local news reports alleging the Duterte family's involvement in illegal drugs and raising questions about a large increase in his wealth.
"They are all there doing their thing, trying to destroy this government by spreading false news and planting intrigues against the government," Duterte spokesman Salvador Panelo told a news conference.
He released a graphic which he said showed how a video of a hooded man alleging the Duterte family's role in the narcotics trade was shared by one journalist to colleagues employed by other Philippine news outfits.
The news organizations named have all reported extensively on Duterte's crackdown against illegal drugs that has left more than 5,000 suspects dead at the hands of the police in what rights groups have said may be a crime against humanity.
Panelo said the ouster allegations were based on information shared by a foreign intelligence agency which he would not name.
"In other words, what these people are doing is to give succour or assist the enemy, if they are not the enemy themselves," Panelo said.
Last week Duterte publicly lashed out at the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), which published a report about the rise in the president's net worth.
"In the coming weeks, I will return the favour. So Philippine Investigative, you better stop," Duterte said.
Panelo said Monday the Duterte government was putting these journalists and news outfits on notice but would not pursue legal action against them "for now".
"But if the plot thickens and they perform acts which are already violation(s) of the penal laws, that's a different story," Panelo added.
The comments came weeks after the government twice briefly detained Maria Ressa, chief executive of the online news site Rappler over tax evasion, securities fraud and other charges.
Panelo named Ressa and Rappler, PCIJ, and Vera Files, among others, in the list of news organisations allegedly plotting against Duterte.
He accused Ellen Tordesillas, the Vera Files president, of spreading the video clip alleging Duterte family involvement in the narcotics trade.
Ressa, tweeting about the ouster allegations, called them "ludicrous" and "yet another (presidential) palace ploy to harass journalists".
Panelo said the government has "never stifled dissent in this country".
Tordesillas called the supposed ouster plot "downright false", while PCIJ has said its reports were all based on documents issued by Duterte himself in his required annual filings on assets and liabilities.
Duterte in previous years has also lashed out at other critical media outfits, including the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper and broadcaster ABS-CBN.
He threatened to go after their owners over alleged unpaid taxes or block the network's franchise renewal application.