• By The Financial District

RADICAL INDON ISLAMIC CLERIC FREED FROM PRISON

Indonesia released Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, 82, from prison on Friday, with authorities saying the suspected mastermind of the 2002 Bali bombings would enter a de-radicalization program amid concerns over his continued influence in extremist circles, CNN reported.

Bashir was picked up by his family and was being driven to his home in central Java, said a spokeswoman for the corrections directorate general at the law and human rights ministry, Reuters also reported.


Photographs showed him wearing a white robe, white cap and a face mask as he left the prison in Bogor, south of Jakarta. "Abu Bakar Bashir was released from Gunung Sindur prison at 5.30 a.m.," spokeswoman Rika Aprianti told reporters, adding that he was healthy on his departure.


Bashir, who is regarded as the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), a jihadist network with ties to al-Qaeda, was imprisoned in 2011 for 15 years for his links to a militant training camp in Aceh province.


After receiving periodic reductions in his jail term, he served 10 years in prison, the Associated Press (AP) noted.


Although Indonesian police and Western intelligence agencies say Bashir was linked to the Bali attacks that killed 202 people and a 2003 attack on the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta, he was never convicted for them and denied those ties.


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


The Bali bombings killed 88 Australians, and the country's foreign minister, Marise Payne, said this week Indonesia must ensure Bashir does not incite more violence.


Thiolina Marpaung, an Indonesian wounded in the 2002 attacks, said she wanted authorities to keep supervising Bashir.



WEEKLY FEATURE : JOSE MARI CHAN AND THE CHRISTMAS ANTHEM