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Suspected Bali bombings mastermind Abu Bakar Bashir released from jail

JAKARTA, Indonesia: Abu Bakar Bashir, who is suspected of being a mastermind behind the Bali bombings, has been released from an Indonesian prison.

Bashir, now 82, was released because his sentence for terror offences expired early due to good behaviour behind bars.

He was the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah (JI) in 2002. He has always denied being involved.

Bashir was released early on Friday morning and was met at the jail by his son, lawyers and a doctor.

His lawyer Achmad Michdan said in a statement that Bashir left jail at 5:30 am local time, in order to “avoid crowds”.

He said the cleric was tested for Covid-19 before leaving Gunung Sindur prison and that the result came back negative.

Local media said Bashir was wearing all white clothes and a mask and was immediately taken by car to the Al Mukmin Ngruki Islamic Boarding School, in Sukoharjo, Central Java.

As many as 202 people were killed and 209 were injured when JI set off bombs in two Bali nightclubs and outside the US consulate on October 12, 2002.

Australia lost 88 people that night and the attacks remain the single largest loss of Australian life from an act of terrorism.

Bashir, who was JI’s spiritual leader, was jailed in 2005 for conspiracy over the attacks but his conviction was quashed on appeal.

In 2011 he was handed a 15-year prison term for his links to militant training camps in Aceh, but after a number of periodic reductions for good behaviour, his sentence has now expired.

Bashir, who was JI’s spiritual leader, was jailed in 2005 for conspiracy over the attacks but his conviction was quashed on appeal.

In 2011 he was handed a 15-year prison term for his links to militant training camps in Aceh, but after a number of periodic reductions for good behaviour, his sentence has now expired.

Michdan added that the Australian government’s narrative about the Muslim cleric was an “exaggeration”.

“Abu Bakar Bashir was proven in court to never be involved [in the Bali bombings], yet they still hook him up with it,” Michdan said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was a “gut-wrenching time” for friends and families of the Australians killed in the bombings.

“This is very distressing to the friends and families of the 88 Australians who were killed in the Bali bombings of 2002. I still remember that day very vividly, like I’m sure many Australians do,” he said.

“It’s hard, and it’s gut-wrenching, having spent time with the families of those victims of that terrible bombing.”

Morrison said that while Bashir was released in line with the Indonesian justice system, he understood that “doesn’t make it any easier for any Australian to accept that”.

“It’s sometimes not a fair world,” he said.