Beginning of the military trial for three men detained at Guantanamo Bay, suspected of being involved in deadly attacks in Indonesia.
The Pentagon on Thursday announced plans to move forward with a military trial for three men detained at the US base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, suspected of being involved in the deadly bombings in Indonesia in 2002 and 2003.
A senior military legal official has approved non-capital charges that include conspiracy, murder and terrorism for the three men, who have been held in the United States for 17 years for their alleged roles in the deadly Bali nightclub bombing in 2002 and a year later from a JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta.
The timeline for the charges, which had been submitted under President Donald Trump but not finalized, took the men’s lawyers by surprise and appears to conflict with President Joe Biden’s intention to close the detention center.
Lloyd Austin, Biden’s candidate for defense secretary, this week reaffirmed his intention to shut down Guantanamo at the Senate committee reviewing his appointment.
“The timing here is obvious, a day after the inauguration,” said Major James Valentine of the Marine Corps, the designated military lawyer for the most prominent of the three. “It was done in a state of panic before the new administration could take hold.”
A spokesperson for the military commissions, which for years bogged down in court challenges largely centered on the brutal treatment of the men during their previous incarceration in CIA detention centers, made no immediate comment.
Military prosecutors filed charges against Encep Nurjaman, an Indonesian known as Hambali, and the other two men in June 2017. The case was dismissed by the Pentagon legal official known as a convening authority for reasons that are not known to the public.
“The case collapsed on them. I can’t tell you why because it’s classified, ”said Valentine, a member of Hambali’s legal team.
Now that the convening authority has approved the charges, the United States must bring the prisoners to the military commission at the base in Cuba.
Legal proceedings at Guantanamo have been interrupted by the pandemic and it is not known when they will resume.
Hambali was reportedly the head of Jemaah Islamiyah, an Al Qaeda affiliate in Southeast Asia. The Pentagon said in a brief statement on the case that it was accused along with Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep and Mohammed Farik Bin Amin, who are from Malaysia, of planning and aiding the attacks.
Guantanamo Detention Center
All three were captured in Thailand in 2003 and detained by the CIA before being taken to Guantanamo three years later.
The October 2002 attacks on the tourist island of Bali killed 202 people, mainly foreign tourists, including 88 Australians. A cleric who inspired him, along with other attacks, was released from an Indonesian prison earlier this month after serving his sentence for funding the training of fighters.
The August 2003 attack on the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta left 12 people dead and around 150 injured.
In December, Indonesian police arrested a man suspected of being the military leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah network.
Guantanamo’s largest case, involving five men indicted in the September 11, 2001 attacks, has remained in the preliminary stages since their indictment in May 2012. No date has been set for the trial for the death penalty.
The United States detains 40 men at Guantanamo. President Barack Obama has sought to close the detention center, move prisoners to facilities in the United States, and transfer military trials to civilian court.
Obama has reduced the prisoner population, but his efforts to shut down Guantanamo have been blocked by Congress, which has banned the transfer of anyone from the base to the United States for any reason.
Biden said he was in favor of closing the detention center, but has not yet disclosed his plans for the facility. In written testimony to the Senate, Austin said he would work with other members of the administration to develop a “way forward” to closure.
“I think it is time for the Guantanamo detention center to close its doors,” he said.