Australians disappointed Indonesian Islamic cleric’s release linked to Bali bombing

Indonesian radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir greets supporters inside a courtroom following the first day of an appeal hearing in Cilacap, Central Java province

Families of 88 Australians murdered in the 2002 Bali bombing will be disturbed by the early release from prison on Friday of the Indonesian Islamic cleric speculated to be the mastermind of the terrorist attack, said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Abu Bakar Bashir walked free from prison after serving ten years of a 15-year sentence for organizing a terror training camp.

Indonesian police and Western intelligence agencies say Bashir was linked to the Bali attack, which hit 202 people, but he was never convicted of direct accountability and denied those ties.

“It’s still raw. All of these years later. Still very raw,” said Morrison, adding Bashir’s release was distressing to families of victims and warned police must closely monitor him.

The 82-year-old cleric was released into his family’s care in Central Java and will undergo an anti-terrorism deradicalization program.

Australia has always called for those involved in the Bali attack to face more challenging, proportionate, and just sentences, Morrison said, adding that sentencing decisions were, however, matters for the Indonesian justice system and must be respected.

“We have made explicit through our embassy in Jakarta the concerns we have that such individuals be barred from further inciting others,” he said.

For members of Sydney’s Coogee Dolphins amateur rugby club, which lost its president and five members in the Bali attack, Bashir’s release will be difficult; spokesman Albert Talarico told Reuters.

“Some will never forgive; there will be others who will be just angry today,” said Talarico, who became club president in 2003 and 2004, after president Clint Thompson was killed.

“Others will stay silent because they don’t wish to have the old wounds opened again.”

Phil Britten, who was badly burned across 40% of his body, is concerned Bashir will be “going back into society and doing what he’s always done”, radicalize others.

“Over the years, you have to learn to let go and let people deal with those matters,” Britten told Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

“If I waste my time, anger, and emotions on things that I can’t change, I’m not living my best life for my family.” Bashir is regarded as the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), a jihadist terrorist network with ties to al Qaeda.

Zulkarnaen, a man believed to be one of the most senior members of JI and involved in making the bombs for the Bali attacks, was arrested in Indonesia last month.

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