[JURIST] Australian Prime Minister John Howard [official website] said Wednesday that the country was "extremely disappointed" and "distressed" at the release from prison of Abu Bakar Bashir [BBC profile], the Indonesian Muslim cleric jailed in connection to the 2002 Bali bombings [BBC backgrounder]. Bashir was released Wednesday after serving 26 months in prison following his conviction on conspiracy charges [JURIST report]. Bashir is accused of being the spiritual leader of the Southeast Asian extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah [Wikipedia profile], which has ties to al Qaeda and has been blamed for the bombings in Bali in 2002 and 2005.
Eighty-eight of the over 200 people killed in the 2002 bombings were Australian and Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer [official website] called for restrictions [transcript] on Bashir's travel and financial assets. Bashir was initially sentenced to serve 30 months, but received a reduction in sentence [JURIST report] last August as part of the celebration of Indonesia's Independence Day. It is Indonesian custom to reduce the sentences of inmates who exhibit good behavior on national holidays, with the exception of those serving life sentences. At the time, Australia condemned the reduction in sentence, prompting Bashir's lawyers to criticize Australian interference with Indonesian affairs [JURIST report]. BBC News has more.