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Bali bombers’ spiritual leader Abu Bakar Bashir hospitalised in Indonesia

He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2011 for supporting a military-style training camp for militants

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 March, 2018, 2:38pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 March, 2018, 10:08pm

A radical Islamic cleric who was the spiritual leader of the Bali bombers and a force behind a jihadist training camp raided in 2010 has been transferred from prison to a Jakarta hospital.

Guarded by four paramilitary police officers, the ailing white-bearded Abu Bakar Bashir arrived at the hospital in Indonesia’s capital on Thursday morning.

He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2011 for supporting a military-style training camp for militants that was uncovered the year before.

The octogenarian Bashir suffers from medical problems including chronically weak blood circulation. A copy of a prison memo said Bashir is being treated for pooling of blood in the legs, a common condition in old age known as chronic venous insufficiency.

Local media reported that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo agreed with Bashir receiving treatment in hospital on humanitarian grounds.

In 2016 he was transferred from his isolation cell on the maximum security Nusa Kambangan prison island to Gunung Sindur prison about 50 kilometres (30 miles) southeast of Jakarta amid complaints from his lawyer of inhumane treatment.

Bashir’s sympathisers hope Widodo will grant Bashir a permanent release due to his poor health, a move that would help mend fences between hardline Muslims and Widodo ahead of a presidential election in 2019 but would alarm allies such as the US and Australia.

Widodo’s approval ratings remain high with the broader Indonesian public.

The firebrand cleric was arrested almost immediately after the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreigners, including 11 Hong Kong residents.

But prosecutors were unable to prove a string of terrorism-related allegations. He was instead sentenced to 18 months prison for immigration violations.

Bashir has repeatedly denied any involvement in terror attacks and after being sentenced in 2011 for his role in the militant training camp said he rejected the ruling from “infidel” authorities.

“This verdict ignores sharia law and is based on the infidel law, so it’s forbidden for me to accept it,” Bashir said during the trial.