‘Outrageous’: Aussie anger as Bali terrorist walks free
Radical Islamic terrorist Abu Bakar Bashir was officially spirited away from his Indonesian prison in the early hours of Friday after serving 15 years for his murderous collaborations.
Bashir is the alleged mastermind behind the deadly 2002 Bali bombings, that claimed 202 lives, including 88 Australians and injured hundreds more.
Wearing a white shirt and black mask, Bashir kept his car window firmly closed as it left the jail followed by an ambulance and three other vehicles.
Indonesian Corrections directorate spokesman, Mr Rika Aprianti said the aged terrorist had been swab tested for coronavirus a with a negative result and was then collected by his family at 5.30am in an effort to avoid the crowd which comprised mainly media.
"Because COVID-19 cases are high, we released him early," Mr Rika said of the unique departure that has not been extended to any other released convicts during than pandemic.
The controversial extremist cleric is the spiritual leader and co-founder of the military-strength terror organisation Jemaah Islamiah (JI), which is linked to al-Qaida and aligned to ISIL, was jailed on terrorism charges connected to fighter training camps in Aceh province, Indonesia's only province where Sharia law is practised.
Bashir, who is 82 years old and was born when Indonesia was the Dutch East Indies, was vetoed parole in 2019 when he refused to disavow his deadly actions.
Aussie bombing survivor Phil Britten, 41, from Perth, lost seven friends and suffered horrific burns to 60 per cent of his body in the attack. The then 22-year-old footballer was in Bali celebrating a grand final win with his crew from the Kingsley Football Club in Perth's northern suburbs.
"I spoke out earlier about Bashir getting out early on humanitarian reasons because he is old and in bad health. I was furious. He was showing no remorse for his actions at all," Mr Britten said.
Mr Britten welcomed that Indonesian authorities didn't fold to pressure and the callous cleric was made to fulfil his sentence.
"We all now know who he is and what he does. He might not be the one to set off a bomb or wear a suicide vest but he is the one who pulls the strings, he creates a plan and puts it into action.
"In my opinion he should have been given a harsher sentence. He is ten times worse than those people who are followers of an ideology and who pull real triggers because they are told to," Mr Britten said.
On that infamous night of October 8, two explosions detonated - one tripped by a suicide bomber deep inside the packed Paddy's nightclub in Kuta and a few seconds later a van loaded with more than a tonne of explosives parked across the road outside of the Sari club delivered it deadly cargo.
The horror that ensued changed the tropical island paradise forever and scarred the families of the murdered 38 Australians, 23 Indonesians, 23 Brits and 53 others from cross the globe.
More than 300 people were seriously injured.
In November 2008, Jemaah Islamiah plotters Imam Samudra, Huda bin Adbul Haq and the notorious 'smiling assassin' Amrozi Nurthasyim - were executed by firing squad on Indonesia's prison island Nusa Kambangan. A fourth perpetrator named Dulmatin was killed in a shootout with police in Jakarta in 2010.
Bali-based bombing survivor and expat restaurateur Lynley Le Grand said she does not support the release of Bashir.
"To let such a person out of jail, a person that inflicted such atrocities upon innocent people is outrageous," Ms Le Grand said.
Awarded a Bravery Medal as part of Victoria's Order of Australia awards in 2003 for dragging her friend out of the burning bombsite of Paddy's nightclub despite having excruciating burns to 30 per cent of her body, Ms Le Grand has made her peace.
With her husband Michael, she owns and operates Corner House restaurant in Seminyak - a diner that has traded throughout the Covid crisis to become the social epicentre of the area among expats and locals.
"I have no hatred towards Bali, its culture or its people. It has healed me in many ways these last 19 years, and I now call Bali home with my family.
"Some of my closest friends and colleagues in Bali are Muslim. However, a person's character is not defined by their religion. A person's actions and motives define who they are and the hurt and pain they can cause," Ms Le Grand said.
Like many, she believes that the murderous Bashir should have faced harsher consequences for his despicable life.
"He should pay the ultimate price that so many young and innocent people paid simply for enjoying their life and the island of Bali."
As a powerful Islamic cleric and terrorist, Bashir was found guilty of involvement in the first bombing that Jemaah Islamiah openly owned. He was sentenced a two-and-a-half-years prison 2005 but the conviction was overturned on appeal.
When he was released in 2006, he immediately campaigned to enforce Sharia law over civil law throughout the archipelago.
However as far back as the 1970s he was agitating for an Islamic state and founded Peasantren Al-Mukmin boarding school in Java, a school that is known as Indonesia's 'Ivy League' college for Jemaah Islamiah terrorists.
Graduates included Huda bin Adbul Haq and Amrozi - both of whom were executed. It also produced the bomb maker Zulkarnaen - who was finally arrested last month for his alleged involvement in the 2002 attack.
In 1985, Bashir fled to Malaysia where he stayed for 14 years and co-founded Jemaah Islamiah, which aims to unify large swathes of Singapore, The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia as a single sovereign Islamic state.
Then in 2008, Bashir formed the JI splinter group Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid which was immediately designated as a terror group by the Australia, the UK, Canada, the United States, China and Japan.
The ageing cleric also appears on the United Nation's Security Council's index of international terrorists for his association with al-Qaida, the Taliban and ISIL and for financing and facilitating bomb attacks and supplying arms to JI.
In 2011 he was convicted and sentenced to 15 years for supporting terrorist training camps.
It has been reported that Bashir plans to return to the Al Mukim School to resume preaching his hard-line beliefs.
Originally published as 'Outrageous': Aussie anger as Bali terrorist walks free