INDONESIA RELEASES RADICAL CLERIC ABU BAKAR BA’ASYIR
On June 14, the alleged spiritual leader of Indonesian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiya (JI), Abu Bakar Ba’asyir (or Abu Bakar Bashir), was released from prison. Ba’asyir was arrested a week after the 2002 bombings in Bali that killed 202 people. After his arrest, Ba’asyir was charged with involvement in the Bali bombings, the JW Marriott bombing in 2003, a series of attacks on churches in 2000, an assassination attempt against former President Megawati Sukarnoputri and for being the spiritual leader of JI. He was acquitted of nearly all charges and was finally sentenced to 30 months in jail for being involved in an “evil conspiracy.” In total, Ba’asyir served 26 months in jail, a punishment that most analysts consider extremely lenient and one that may encourage more terrorism in Southeast Asia. Australia was especially angered over the release since 88 of those killed in the Bali attacks were Australian tourists. After Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer warned that Ba’asyir’s release could inspire more terrorist attacks, Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Desra Percaya said that “We won’t let another country dictate to us. Australia has the right to deliver its opinion, but Indonesia also has the right to maintain its position as a sovereign state” (Jakarta Post, June 17). Indonesia has placed restrictions on Ba’asyir’s movement since he remains on a UN list of terrorists (Jakarta Post, June 17).