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Indonesia to free cleric linked to Bali bombing.


Indonesia to free cleric linked to Bali bombing.

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Photo: AP Photo/Agus Fitrah

Indonesian authorities will today release the radical jihadi cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, who is affiliated with the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) group.

Bashir, believed to have been the mastermind behind the 2002 Bali bombings killing 200 people, including 88 Australian citizens, will walk free after serving just ten years of his 15-year sentence. Bashir’s current sentence, however, is unrelated to the bombings and is a result of his 2011 indictment for supporting jihadi training camps. Previously, plans to grant the aging Bashir early release on humanitarian grounds sparked a backlash within both Indonesia and Australia.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s administration has attempted to diffuse the influence of radical Islamic groups in recent weeks by banning the hardline Islamic Defenders Front and promising to safeguard the rights of Islamic minority sects that are often the target of extremists. Still, the effects of Bashir’s release on Indonesia’s extremist movement remain unclear.

Expect Bashir’s release to prompt anger within Indonesia as well as criticism from Australian authorities with the latter concerned about the potential for released extremists to orchestrate future attacks. Indeed, despite Bashir’s weakened stature since his imprisonment a decade ago, it is likely that extremist groups will try to leverage his notoriety to boost their credibility.

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