Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne says the release of the suspected mastermind of the 2002 Bali bombings, Abu Bakar Bashir, will deeply worry the families and friends of Australians killed in the terrorist attacks.
The Australian Embassy in Jakarta has raised concerns with the Indonesian government, stating that the authorities must ensure that Bashir and other released terrorists are not induced to encourage others to commit future atrocities.
The Indonesian government announced Monday that the radical clergyman would be released from prison later this week after his prison sentence expired.
Bashir, 82, who was one of Indonesia’s most notorious extremists, is considered the spiritual leader of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Jemaah Islamiah network. He was jailed in 2011 for links to militant training camps in Aceh province.
Senator Payne said the government understands the news « deeply worries the families and friends of the 88 Australians killed in 2002 and the four Australians killed in Bali in 2005, as well as the many injured in those horrific terrorist attacks « . .
« Australia has always insisted that those involved face severe, proportionate and just punishments. Conviction decisions are a matter for the Indonesian judicial system and we respect Indonesia’s sovereignty and the independence of its judiciary, « said Senator Payne.
« Our message in Jakarta has raised our concern that such individuals will be prevented from inciting future attacks against innocent civilians.
« The Australian law enforcement and security authorities have worked well with their Indonesian counterparts for many years, and we trust Indonesia’s counter-terrorism capabilities. «
Bashir will be released on Friday « according to the expiration date and the end of his term of office, » Rika Aprianti, spokeswoman for the Directorate-General for Corrections of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, said in a statement.
Jemaah Islamiah is accused of planning several large attacks in Indonesia, including activists trained in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the southern Philippines.
Its members are accused of the 2002 nightclub bombings in Bali that killed more than 200 people, including dozens of Australians, and an attack on the J. . W.. . Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, which killed 12 people a year later.
Zulkarnaen, a senior JI worker believed to have made bombs for both attacks, was among 23 suspected militants arrested last month.
Bashir denied any involvement in the Bali bombings. A Bashir attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his upcoming release.
Security analyst Ridlwan Habib said that while Bashir’s stature has deteriorated, extremists could try to link their activities to him in order to gain traction and build their credibility.
« Bashir is a high-ranking figure in the Indonesian jihadist movement and it is not impossible that his big name could be used, » he said
When President Joko Widodo sought re-election in January 2019, he considered Bashir’s early release on health grounds, but abandoned the plan after Bashir reportedly refused to remain loyal to Indonesian state ideology.
Last week Indonesia banned the Islamic Defender’s Front, a separate controversial but politically influential hardline group, following the return of its spiritual figurehead Rizieq Shihab from three years of exile in Saudi Arabia.
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Anthony is the foreign affairs and national security correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Bali bombings in 2002, Indonesia, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, terrorism, Jemaah Islamiyah
World News – AU – Publication of alleged bombings in Bali Mastermind ‘deeply worrying’: Payne
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