Indonesian militant Bashir could be free in weeks
JAKARTA: Indonesia’s most prominent militant Muslim preacher, accused of being spiritual head of the radical Jemaah Islamiah network, could walk out of jail within weeks after the Supreme Court halved his prison sentence.
The Supreme Court said on Tuesday it had cut Abu Bakar Bashir’s time in jail for immigration and document forgery offences to 18 months from three years. Security experts said the move sent the wrong signal about Jakarta’s desire to fight terror, adding the release of Bashir in the near future would embolden his supporters at a sensitive time just before Indonesia’s elections this year.
Based on time served, the 65-year-old Bashir could be free in weeks.
He was first detained in mid-October 2002, just days after the Bali nightclub bombings in October 2002, which killed 202 people, mostly foreigners. Authorities have blamed Jemaah Islamiah for the Bali blasts and last year’s suicide bombing at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta that killed 12 people.
Moegihardjo, head of the crimes division at the Supreme Court, said judges agreed with an appeals court move to uphold immigration and forgery charges, but to drop a treason charge.
“The sentence was lowered from three years to one and a half years that will later be reduced by the time spent,” Moegihardjo told Bashir supporters and reporters inside the court office. He said the Supreme Court decided the appeals court had imposed the incorrect jail term on Bashir. That court had reduced his sentence to three years from four.
A lower court had already quashed charges that Bashir headed the Al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah.
With elections in the world’s most populous Muslim nation due this year, the Supreme Court decision could please conservative Muslim voters who have accused the West of forcing Jakarta to get tough with radical Islamists. But it will likely draw fire from Western and regional nations who blame Jemaah Islamiah for a spate of bombings. Those countries accuse Bashir of being the group’s spiritual leader. —Reuters