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Militant Indonesian Cleric Released From Prison


Indonesian Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir has been released after 25 months in jail for the role he played in the deadly 2002 Bali bombings.

Hundreds of supporters shouted "God is great" outside Jakarta's Cipinang prison early Wednesday while police blew whistles to clear the way as Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir walks out of jail.

Bashir spoke briefly to the crowd.

He promised to continue his fight to "uphold Islamic sharia" and said this law was needed to help Indonesia, which is now shrouded "in darkness."

The 68-year-old was convicted two years ago of being part of a conspiracy behind the 2002 bombings in Bali that killed 202 people.

Bashir is accused of being the spiritual leader of the Southeast Asian group Jemaah Islamiyah, which is linked to the al Qaida terror network.

J.I. has been blamed for a series of terrorist bombings in Indonesia over the past several years. Several J.I. leaders convicted in the attacks attended an Islamic boarding school Bashir founded.

Bashir, a hard-line Islamist, was originally sentenced to 30 months in jail. The sentence was cut last year as part of regular remissions given to prisoners to mark Indonesia's Independence Day.

The United States and Australia - which lost 88 citizens in the Bali attack - have expressed disappointment over what they view as too lenient a jail term.

Bashir denies any wrongdoing, saying J.I. does not exist. Anti-terrorism experts have said the group wants to create an Islamic state across much of Southeast Asia.

Indonesia has arrested more than 200 people, sentencing three to death, for the roles they played in terrorist attacks in the country.

But none of the trials has produced evidence linking Bashir directly to the preparation or execution of terrorist attacks in Indonesia. Many security experts say he has little operational role in J.I.

Bashir's lawyer, Adnan Wirawan, says the cleric simply wants to spend his remaining years teaching at his school.

"He's going to spend the remaining time of his life to do good for others," he said. "To preach and to teach in his school that he was a founder of … he's going to prove that he's a man of peace, that he does not believe in violence to achieve his goals."

After he walked out of prison, Bashir was whisked away by car for the 600-kilometer drive to his home in Solo in West Java, where he will undergo a medical check-up before he returns to his school.

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