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Indonesian President Changes Course on Release of Radical Cleric

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FILE - Radical Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir speaks to the judges during his appeal hearing at the district court in Cilacap, Central Java, Indonesia, Feb. 9, 2016.

Indonesia is placing conditions on the pending early release of Abu Bakar Bashir, the radical Muslim cleric linked to the 2002 bombings on Bali island.

President Joko Widodo said Tuesday that Bashir must agree to pledge his loyalty to the state and its secular ideology as a condition of his parole. A week ago, Widodo said he would grant Bashir an unconditional release from prison based on the cleric's age and ill health. Bashir is in his early 80s.

Chief Security Minister Wiranto said Monday the president had ordered a review of the decision, which was met with criticism both at home and abroad, including from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Australia lost 88 of the 202 people killed in the bombings of several nightclubs on the tourist island.

Some observers believe Widodo's original decision was made to win support from hardline Islamists for his re-election efforts. General elections are set for April.

Bashir was the spiritual leader of the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiah terror group implicated in Bali attacks. He was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison for supporting militant training camps in Aceh province.

Bashir has steadfastly refused to pledge loyalty to Indonesia's secular ideology.

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