A radical Muslim cleric linked to the 2002 Bali bombings will only be released from jail if he pledges loyalty to the state and its ideology, Indonesia's president said on Tuesday, 22nd January, after news he would be freed unconditionally sparked criticism.
In a report by Reuters, President Joko Widodo declared last week that Abu Bakar Bashir, 81, would be freed on humanitarian grounds, given his age and poor health.
The president’s legal adviser said the cleric would be granted unconditional release, but Widodo said in a statement on Tuesday it would be "conditional release", a day after the chief security minister said the decision was being reviewed.
"Conditions have to be fulfilled like loyalty to the unitary state of Indonesia, to the Pancasila. That is one of the very basic conditions," said Widodo.
Convicts eligible for early release are required to pledge loyalty to the state and its secular ideology, known as Pancasila, and not to repeat their crimes. However, Bashir's lawyers said he has refused to make this undertaking.
Bashir was the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), an Islamist group linked to al-Qaeda and blamed for the 2002 bombing of nightclubs on Bali island that killed more than 200 people, most of them tourists, including 88 Australians. He was convicted in 2010 under anti-terrorism laws for links to militant training camps in Aceh province and jailed for 15 years.
Despite being linked to the Bali attacks and a bombing at Jakarta's Marriott Hotel in 2003, Bashir was never convicted for them, denying any ties.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged Indonesia not to show him leniency while speaking before Widodo.
"We have been very clear about the need to ensure that as part of our joint counter-terrorism efforts … that Abu Bakar Bashir would not be in any position or in any way able to influence or incite anything," Morrison told reporters on Monday.
Critics have accused Widodo of trying to win over religious conservatives ahead of a presidential election set for April 17th in the world's largest Muslim-majority country.
Some members of the ruling coalition, including officials in Widodo's party, fear Bashir's release could alienate moderate Muslim and non-Muslim voters.
"Everyone is asking: 'How can we possibly allow this?'" said an official from Widodo's Democratic Party of Struggle. "Now it's about how many votes we will lose, not gain."