The legal team representing firebrand Muslim cleric and terrorism convict Abu Bakar Baasyir rejected on Saturday claims that the unconditional release of the cleric was “a gift” from President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, saying that the release was part of a regular judicial procedure.
One of the lawyers, Muhammad Mahendradatta, said the decision was purely based on humanitarian reasons and was provided for in Indonesian law
“This plan is free from political interest and is not unusual in our legal mechanism. The public don’t need to credit the government for this, or praise [Jokowi’s administration] for releasing a member of the ulema, for the sake of devotion to the ulema. It’s not that,” he said.
Mahendradatta explained that the legal basis of the plan was in the Law No. 12/1995 on Prison, which is separate from the Criminal Code (KUHP). In the Prison Law, he said, prison terms could be reduced if the prisoner faced declining health or advanced age.
“This means less time in prison, we call it remission […] it’s already Baasyir’s right by law,” he said.
He added that Jokowi did not suddenly came up with the decision, because the legal team had sent a letter to Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu seeking Baasyir’s release and it had government support since then, following discussion with legal experts, including those from the Presidential Palace.
“This might be the result of that process,” Mahendradatta said, adding that the release had nothing to do with Jokowi as any president might have done the same.
The President’s lawyer, Yusril Ihza Mahendra, who is also an adviser to the Jokowi-Ma'ruf Amin presidential-election campaign team, concurred that the 80-year-old cleric’s release was free from any political motive, but acknowledged that it was carried out as a special measure.
Baasyir, who is eligible to be released on parole on Dec. 13, insists on defying a general condition of parole that requires him to express loyalty to the national ideology Pancasila, which is stipulated in Government Regulation No. 99/2012 on sentence reduction for inmates, including those convicted of terrorism.
Yusril said that Baasyir would continue to insist that he ”would only obey God.”
“I spoke to Jokowi about this. We have been running back and forth on Pancasila. While [Baasyir’s] condition is getting worse. And [the President] understood, therefore, he would simplify the mechanism,” he said.
Jokowi agreed that Baasyir’s parole would not require him to express a commitment to Pancasila.
“So [Baasyir] will be released unconditionally. His house will not be guarded by police. He can opine that democracy is a transgression [of Islam]. We will let him,” said Yusril.
He added that the President had the discretion to override a regulation, as long as it was not a law and there was a strong argument for doing so.