Indonesia Frees 2 Militants Imprisoned for Role in 2002 Bali Bombing in Holiday Ritual

Two Islamic militants jailed for the Bali bombings that killed 202 people were freed Tuesday and nine others had their sentences reduced to mark the end of the Islamic fasting month, officials said.

Indonesia traditionally cuts prison terms for inmates who exhibit good behavior on national holidays — usually by several months — and the justice ministry said more than 43,000 convicts benefited this time around.

But the decision to include convicted terrorists, a policy the government earlier said it was reconsidering, was likely to anger countries that lost citizens in the 2002 attacks on two crowded nightclubs.

Eighty-eight of those killed were Australian.

Sirojul Munir and Mujarod bin Salim, both of whom were convicted of hiding two of the masterminds of the bombings, had up to 45 days shaved from their five-year sentences paving the way for their release.

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Munir left the jail in East Kalimantan's capital of Balikpapan early Tuesday, said Edi, a prison official who uses a single name, and bin Salim was scheduled to walk free from the main prison on Bali island at 1 p.m. (0500GMT).

Nine other militants convicted of relatively minor roles in the bombings — from withholding information that could have helped police to helping finance the attacks by carrying out robberies — also had 1 1/2 months cut from their sentences.

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 annual attacks in Indonesia blamed on the Jemaah Islamiyah terror network.

The government says three militants on death row for the Bali attacks — Amrozi, Ali Gufron and Imam Samudra — and three others sentenced to life are not eligible for the prison term reductions.

Munir, the militant released Tuesday, said he did not know anything about the Bali bombings but admitted to letting Mubarok, an old classmate who is now serving life behind bars, stay with him.

"When he came to visit me, I accepted him as my old friend and he stayed at my house for four nights," Munir told The Associated Press by telephone.

"As soon as I learned through the newspapers that he was involved in the Bali bombing, I asked him to leave and gave him a little money for transportation. My mistake was not telling police he had been at my house."