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JAKARTA: Indonesia’s president said on Tuesday 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, after news he would be freed unconditionally sparked criticism.

President Joko Widodo had declared last week that Abu Bakar Bashir, 81, would be freed on humanitarian grounds, citing his age and poor health. A legal adviser to the president had said the cleric would be granted unconditional release.

But Widodo said in a statement on Tuesday it would be “conditional release”, a day after the chief security minister said the decision was being reviewed. “Conditions have to be fulfilled like loyalty to the unitary state of Indonesia, to the Pancasila. That is one of the very basic conditions,” said Widodo.

Convicts eligible for early release are required to pledge loyalty to the state and its secular ideology, known as Pancasila, and not to repeat their crimes.

But Bashir’s lawyers say he has refused to do that. Bashir was the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah, linked to Al Qaeda blamed for the 2002 bombing of nightclubs on Bali island that killed more than 200 people, including 88 Australians. He 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.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2019