Jan. 18 (UPI) -- A radical Indonesian cleric involved in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people will be freed next week, as President Joko Widodo said Friday he was granted early parole.
Abu Bakar Bashir was convicted for playing a leadership role in the bombing, but it was overturned in 2006 after he served 26 months in jail. He was convicted again in 2011 for inciting terrorism and financing a terror cell.
The 81-year-old cleric has served nine years of a 15-year sentence. In Indonesia, a prisoner is eligible for parole after serving two-thirds of a sentence. He will be released next week.
"This release was decided because of humanitarian considerations and also related to his health care" Widodo said in a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Some believe Widodo, who's running for re-election in April, is attempting to win support from conservative Muslims by releasing the cleric early. Widodo argued, though, the decision had been considered for a "long time."
Australian officials have fought to keep Bashir jailed in Indonesia, arguing he was the mastermind behind the Bali bombing.
"Abu Bakar Bashir should never be allowed to incite others to carry other future attacks against innocent civilians," Australian Former Minister Julie Bishop said last March, adding he should be punished to "the full extent that Indonesian law allows."
Bashir said he's been fighting for Indonesia.
"I fight because I want this country to be saved, for both Muslims and non-Muslims living in this world," Bashir said in an interview from prison. "So, do not get it wrong. I do not fight against this country. Instead, I fight for this country, this God-blessed country."