An Islamic militant jailed for the Bali bombings that killed 202 people was released from prison yesterday as part of Indonesia's independence day celebrations, and 11 others linked to the blasts had their sentences reduced.
It is an Indonesian tradition to cut jail terms on holidays, but the decision was likely to anger countries that lost citizens in the twin nightclub attacks four years ago. Family members of the victims said they were pained by the news.
Three militants serving time in East Kalimantan's capital of Balikpapan received reductions of four months, paving the way for one, Puryanto, to walk free yesterday, said Edi, a prison official who uses a single name.
Nine other men imprisoned on Bali had their sentences cut by four months, said justice ministry official Djoko Bambang Untung.
Australian Brian Deegan, who lost his 21-year-old son Josh in the bombings, said that he was disappointed.
"This shows that the Indonesians aren't serious about fighting terrorism," he said.
Indonesia has arrested hundreds of al-Qaeda-linked militants in recent years and jailed 33 people over the 2002 bombings, the first in a series of attacks in Indonesia blamed on the Jemaah Islamiyah terror network.
Among those prosecuted was the group's reputed spiritual head, Abu Bakar Bashir, who was freed from prison in June. He too benefited from holiday pardons in the past, drawing protests from Australia.
Those who benefited from yesterday's sentence reductions played relatively minor roles in the suicide bombings -- from carrying out robberies to finance the attacks to helping shelter the main suspects.
Three militants -- Amrozi, Ali Gufron and Imam Samudra -- are scheduled to be executed later this month and three others are serving life sentences.
Puryanto, the man who was released yesterday, said he did not know anything about the Bali bombings.
Looking for work
Puryanto admitted to meeting Amrozi, saying he came to his farm in a remote village in East Kalimantan looking for work, but said he did not know until the terror suspect was taken away by police that he was wanted.
"I accept that I was imprisoned as my fate," he said in a telephone interview.
"I'm happy that I can now live together again with my family, but I'm still afraid the stigma of terrorism will follow me," he said.
Justice and Human Rights Minister Hamid Awaluddin said 54,000 prisoners had their sentences cut yesterday, most by a few months, and of those 6,000 were freed.
Among those who received remissions was Australian Schapelle Corby, serving 20 years for smuggling drugs to Bali, said justice ministry official, Anak Agung Mayun Mataram. Two months were shaved from her sentence, he said.