Anger over Bashir reduction

The decision by the Indonesian government to include Bashir in its annual Independence Day prison remissions reduced the religious leader’s 30-month prison term by four-and-a-half months.

He could be released from jail by mid-2006.

“I just find it obnoxious, repulsive. I always thought life was more valuable than that but it appears that it’s not,” said Brian Deegan, who lost his 21-year-old son Josh in the blasts.

Danny Hanley, the father of two daughters, Renae Anderson and Simone Hanley, killed along with their friend, Francoise Dahan, in the Sari nightclub attack spoke to the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

“Every family member of a victim must feel this way. A reduced sentence is spitting in the face of every victim’s family,” Mr Hanley reportedly said.

Erik de Haart, the spokesman for the Coogee Dolphins rugby league football club which lost six members in the explosions, said it “belittled” the lives of the victims.

“It means Bashir will be released fairly soon, while the victims are dead forever.”

Prime Minister John Howard expressed his regret that Indonesia went ahead with shortening Bashir’s sentence, despite protests from Foreign Minister Alexander Downer passed on to Indonesia’s Attorney-General by the ambassador, David Ritchie.

“I’m sorry – and so, I think is the minister – that because of the relative automaticity of (Indonesian) law, no change can be made,” Mr Howard said.

“One of the (Indonesian) ministers has pointed out that this is something that automatically happens under Indonesian law.”

But the comments failed to soothe the grief of one father.

“Our government should have done everything. It should have spoken up very, very, loudly, very, very publicly to the Indonesian government and made it very, very plain that this is not the act of a good neighbour,” Mr Deegan told ABC radio.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd called on the prime minister to speak directly with the Indonesian president, saying because it had been a government decision it was appropriate for Australian officials to intervene.

“That’s why John Howard’s got to pick up the telephone, ring President Yudhoyono and say, ‘Mr President this is plain wrong, it’s a kick in the guts for 88 Australian families who have lost loved ones in Bali’.”

An Australian foreign affairs spokesman said the minister was waiting for official confirmation of the sentence reduction before commenting.

“We would be disappointed if they are confirmed.”

Only five of those convicted over the Bali bombings have been exempted from the Independence Day reductions.

Three have been sentenced to death and two have been jailed for life.