JAKARTA: An Indonesian cleric linked to the 2002 Bali bombings which killed more than 200 people was on Friday freed after completing a 10-year jail term unrelated to the attack.
Abu Bakar Bashir is regarded as the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah, a group affiliated with Al-Qaeda and blamed for a series of deadly attacks in Indonesia.
The 82-year-old was never convicted over the Bali bombings and was sentenced to prison for involvement in a militant training camp.
Bashir was picked up from a jail outside Indonesia’s capital Jakarta by his sons and lawyer, Achmad Michdan, and returned home to Sukoharjo in Central Java province.
“He was also escorted by officers from the national counterterrorism agency and the Densus 88 anti-terrorism police squad,” said Rika Aprianti, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights.
Indonesia’s counterterrorism agency earlier said that the cleric would be included in a deradicalization program following his release.
Abdul Rohim, one of his sons, told reporters that the family would do its best to keep Bashir away from any fallacious thinking by “giving him the right arguments about Islam.”
Upon arrival home in Ngruki hamlet, where Bashir’s controversial Al-Mukmin boarding school is located, the cleric’s lawyer said relatives had asked that he “spend time with his family first before he starts meeting other people.”
Bashir was sentenced in 2011 to 15 years for his involvement in a militant training camp in Aceh province and spent part of his term in the high-security jail in the Nusakambangan island off the southern coast of Java, before he was moved to another penitentiary as his health deteriorated.
His 15-year term was later cut by 55 months due to sentence reductions.
He swore allegiance to Daesh in 2014 during his imprisonment in Nusakambangan and clips of him taking the pledge were circulated on social media.
According to former convicted terrorist, Sofyan Tsauri, Bashir was fed with “persuasive” information about Daesh by Abu Walid, an Indonesian associate of the terror group’s leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
“When he was there, his students, who were affiliated to Daesh, were guarding him, while his sons were unable to do so. I am sure his sons, including Rohim, would keep Bashir away from such people who want to see him,” Tsauri told Arab News.
While Bashir is believed to have inspired the 2002 Bali blasts, for which Jemaah Islamiah has been blamed, he has never been convicted over the attack which was the deadliest in Indonesia’s history, killing 202 people, including 88 Australians.
Jemaah Islamiah has also been linked to a series of other attacks, including the 2003 bombing of the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta, the 2004 Australian embassy bombing, a second round of bombings in Bali in 2005, and another attack on the Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Jakarta in 2009.