Radical Muslim cleric and alleged mastermind of the 2002 Bali bombings, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, has been granted early release from jail by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on humanitarian grounds.
81-year-old Ba’asyir is considered the spiritual leader of the Islamist group Jemaah Islamiah (JI). He was convicted in 2010 under anti-terrorism laws and jailed for 15 years for his links to militant training camps in Aceh province.
Jokowi, who is seeking re-election in April, has been criticised by opponents who question his Islamic credentials and accuse him of backing the “criminalisation” of clerics.
“The first reason is humanitarian. He is elderly and his health is also a consideration,” the president told reporters, according to a statement from the social affairs ministry.
Jokowi also cited security concerns, but he did not elaborate.
It was not immediately clear when Ba’asyir would be released from prison in Bogor or what the terms of his release would be.
Ba’asyir’s lawyers said he was eligible for early release because he had served more than a third of his sentence, but he had refused to sign documents detailing the requirements for his probation.
Security officials have previously raised concerns about the cleric’s influence in radical networks. In 2016, police moved him from a maximum-security prison on Nusakambangan island in Central Java to Bogor.