AKARTA: An Islamic cleric who was the ideological leader of the Bali bombers is being released early from a 15-year prison sentence after Indonesia’s president relented on a condition that he renounce radical beliefs, lawyers confirmed on Saturday.
Abu Bakar Bashir had previously been ineligible for parole because of his refusal to recognise the secular government’s authority. He insists he is answerable only to God and that Indonesia should be governed by Islamic law.
His planned release comes during campaigning for a presidential election due in April in which some opponents of President Joko Widodo have tried to discredit him as insufficiently Islamic.
Lawyer Yusril Ihza Mahendra, chairman of an Islamic political party and adviser to Widodo’s re-election campaign, said at a news conference on Saturday that he had brought the issue of Bashir’s imprisonment to the president, who was able to “respect” Bashir’s beliefs and ease the conditions of his release.