JAKARTA – The radical Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir has long refused to recognise the legitimacy of the Indonesian government, and was renowned for his scathing criticisms of world Muslim leaders. Yet, the ideological godfather of the disbanded Jemaah Islamiah (JI), the terrorist group behind the 2002 Bali bombings, as well as a string of other atrocities and terror plots across South-east Asia at the turn of the millennium, will in days owe his freedom to one such leader. President Joko Widodo on Friday dropped a bombshell when he confirmed plans to release Bashir from prison, where he is serving a 15-year sentence for funding a JI paramilitary training camp in Aceh. When pressed, Mr Joko said the 80-year-old Bashir, whose health has been deteriorating in recent years, will be freed on humanitarian grounds. He said he mulled over the move for some time and had taken the decision in consultation with his security czars. Still, the news came as a rude shock, including to many in Australia, where 88 of the 202 victims killed in the Bali blasts were from. Canberra has been firm against any leniency for Bashir, who former foreign minister Julie Bishop described as the “mastermind”… Read full this story
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