Jakarta Post: Free radical cleric linked to Bali bombing – why now?

Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir … controversy over presidential plan for his early release. Image: YouTube still

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Indonesian President Joko Widodo says a radical Muslim cleric linked to the 2002 Bali bombings would only be released from jail if he pledged loyalty to the state and its ideology, following news he would be freed unconditionally sparked criticism – including a stinging editorial in the country’s national English language daily.

President Widodo had declared last week that Abu Bakar Bashir, 81, would be freed on humanitarian grounds, citing his age and poor health.

But a presidential statement said yesterday it would be a “conditional release”.

READ MORE: Indonesia backtracks on ‘unconditional’ release of Bashir

Condemning the release decision, The Jakarta Post said: “The timing and circumstances of the President’s decision are so suspicious that one wonders whether his health condition was a factor at all.”

Bashir was convicted in 2010 under anti-terrorism laws for links to militant training camps in Aceh province and jailed for 15 years.


Although linked to the Bali attacks and a bombing at Jakarta’s Marriott Hotel in 2003, Bashir was never convicted for them and denied those ties.

The Jakarta Post’s editorial board published the following opinion article:

‘Wrong on so many levels’
“There is nothing wrong with granting an old and ailing felon conditional release or even a pardon on humanitarian grounds. But President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo’s decision to approve the early release of 81-year-old terror convict and firebrand cleric Abu Bakar Bashir is wrong on so many levels.

“It is not impossible to pardon the ailing cleric on humanitarian grounds, but the timing and circumstances of the President’s decision are so suspicious that one wonders whether his health condition was a factor at all.

“The call came only months before the April presidential election in which Jokowi will square off against his old rival, Prabowo Subianto, in a bid to secure a second term.

“Prabowo has been touted as the more Islamic candidate by hardline Islamists, while Jokowi is struggling to convince voters he is not a communist, even after naming the leader of the nation’s most influential Islamic institution as his running mate.

“Given the political backdrop, it is too easy to believe the move was just another attempt by Jokowi to win Muslim votes.

“Yusril Ihza Mahendra, the lawyer for the Jokowi-Ma’ruf Amin campaign, has dismissed such speculation. Mahendradatta, Bashir lawyer, has also claimed that his client’s release has nothing to do with politics, that it is not a ‘political gift’ from Jokowi.

“The claim is hardly convincing. Bashir’s lawyers had long cited Bashir’s deteriorating health as the primary reason for his release, or him being put under house arrest. The government had ignored the request. So why the change now?

“Moreover, the Jokowi administration has been far from transparent in explaining the legal basis for Bashir’s release.

“Days after the decision was made public, officials said it was unclear if Bashir was pardoned or granted conditional release. It is hard to say which.

Presidential pardon not sought
“Neither the cleric nor his lawyer have ever sought presidential pardon. The cleric is neither eligible for conditional release, despite having served two thirds of his prison sentence, because he refused to sign a letter of loyalty to the state ideology Pancasila — a requirement for all terror convicts.

“Yusril argued Jokowi could just change or ‘ignore’ the policy, as it is only stipulated in a ministerial regulation, not a law. While it is possible to tweak the regulation, one wonders why Jokowi needs to go through all that for Bashir.

“This leads to another issue: fairness.

“The President has often pledged to not interfere with the law. Only recently, Jokowi cited the exact argument to reject calls for him to grant clemency to a housewife jailed for inadvertently exposing the man accused of sexually abusing her.

“Jokowi is also merciless to drug convicts. Last July, a terminally ill Pakistani drug convict on death row died in prison. The man claimed innocence and Jokowi refused to free him despite his health condition and plea for justice.

“The President has the prerogative to pardon convicts, but he is obliged to justify his action before citizens. His decision on Bashir was poorly timed, legally flawed and insensitive. It sent all the wrong messages to many of his supporters as well as the international community.”

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL Analysis+Reportage – EveningReport.NZ

MIL-OSI UK: Jim Allister’s New Year Message

Source: Traditional Unionist Voice – Northern Ireland

Jim Allister’s New Year Message:

“For TUV the imperative in 2019 is a proper Brexit on 29th March. Hence, the necessity of defeating Mrs May’s disastrous Backstop proposal, which would surrender Northern Ireland to a foreign customs union subject to EU laws and tariffs into which it would have no input, never mind control. 

“The constitutional trap of the Backstop is that it leaves only this part of the UK within the Customs Union of the EU and thereby pushes the EU customs frontier to the Irish Sea, leaving us annexed and cut off. Thus the defeat of the Backstop is essential to our constitutional integrity and future growth as a part of the UK. Otherwise, we morph under Dublin and Brussels control. 

“Leaving the EU without a deal would be highly preferable for the whole United Kingdom to Mrs May’s perfidious deal. It would not involve “crashing out” into economic oblivion but leaving on ordered World Trade terms – the very terms on which much of our trade is already conducted. With an extra £39b in our pocket and the ability to immediately move to new trade deals, prosperity, not penury, would be our evolving destiny.

“Nor, would it be long before the EU would be knocking our door looking for a deal, as their need for our trade is greater than ours is for theirs. Leaving without a deal will bring Brussels and particularly Dublin to their senses.

“So, I have no fear of a WTO Brexit. 

“There is a reason, of course, for the hysteria of nationalism over Brexit. Nationalism, both Scottish and Irish, can see that growth for the UK outside the EU, arising from trade deals with the burgeoning economies, will bring prosperity across the UK and thereby diminish interest in breaking up the UK. Only the diehards would put their nationalist ideology above prosperity. Hence, a proper Brexit secures the Union. 

“The other big event of 2019 will be the Local Government elections in May. 

“The shocking revelations of RHI, along with the Sri Lankan holiday scandal and other excesses, have brought Unionism to the low point of Sinn Fein, with all its odious past, setting itself up to lecture us on the standards required in public life. 

“Those who brought brand unionism so low have much to answer for. The local government elections will afford an opportunity to recalibrate. TUV, untainted by these scandals, or the Stormont Shambles, will offer a fresh start. 

“Through a proper and complete Brexit 2019 can go down in our nation’s history as a momentous turning point for the better. May it be so. “


MIL-OSI UK: Lords debates case for UK Constitutional Convention

Source: British Parliament News

12 December 2018
Members of the Lords, including the governor of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and a former First Minister of Scotland, will debate the current constitutional challenges within the United Kingdom and the case for the establishment of a UK-wide Constitutional Convention to address issues of democratic accountability and devolution, particularly in England, in the House of Lords on Thursday 13 December.

This is a general debate. They normally take place on a Thursday in the chamber. During debates, members are able to put their experience to good use, discussing current issues and drawing the government’s attention to concerns.
The debate was proposed by Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Party), co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Reform, Decentralisation and Devolution
Members expected to take part include:
Lord Higgins (Conservative), governor of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, is expected to make his valedictory speech.
Lord Young of Cookham (Conservative), Lords spokesperson in the Cabinet Office, will respond on behalf of the government.
Further information
Image: iStockphoto