BAHÍA DE GUANTANAMO NAVAL STATION, Cuba (AP) – Three prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention center are expected to have their first day in court after being held for 18 years in connection with the bombings in a Bali nightclub in 2002 and other plots in Southeast Asia.
Indonesian prisoner Encep Nurjaman, known as Hambali, and two Malaysians will be arraigned Monday before a military commission on charges including murder, conspiracy and terrorism. It is simply the first step in what could be a long legal journey for a case involving evidence tainted by CIA torture, the same issue that is largely responsible for other war crime cases languishing for years at Guantánamo. .
The hearing also comes as the Biden administration says it intends to close the detention center, where the United States still holds 39 of the 779 men captured after the September 11, 2001, attacks and invasion of Afghanistan.
The three men charged in connection with the bombings at the nightclub were held in secret CIA confinement for three years, followed by 15 more at the isolated US base in Cuba.
The decision to charge them was made by a Pentagon legal official at the end of the Trump administration, complicating the effort to close the detention center, said Brian Bouffard, a lawyer for Mohammed Nazir bin Lep, one of the Malaysian men.
That made it more difficult for the new administration to add anyone to the list of those who could potentially be transferred out of Guantanamo or even sent home. “It will be even more difficult after a deal,” Bouffard said.
It is not known with certainty if the arrangement will actually take place. Attorneys have tried to suspend the case for various reasons, including what they have said is insufficient access to interpreters and other resources to prepare a defense. The defendants were still expected to appear at the hearing.
The Navy judge presiding over the case in the commission, a hybrid of military and civil law, is expected to consider that question before the charges can be formally filed in a secure courtroom surrounded by coils of barbed wire in the base.
Nurjaman was the leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian militant group linked to Al Qaeda. The US government says it recruited militants, including bin Lep and the other Malaysian defendant in the case, Mohammed Farik bin Amin, for jihadist operations.
Conspiracies carried out by al-Qaida and Jemaah Islamiyah included the October 2002 suicide bombings at Paddy’s Pub and the Sari Club in Bali, Indonesia, and the August 2003 suicide bombing at the JW Marriott in Jakarta. , Indonesia. The attacks together killed 213 people, including seven Americans, and injured 109 people, including six Americans. Dozens of victims were foreign tourists, mostly Australians.
Prosecutors allege that bin Lep and the other Malaysian, Mohammed Farik bin Amin, acted as intermediaries in the transfer of money used to finance the group’s operations.
The three were captured in Thailand in 2003 and transferred to CIA “black sites” where they were brutalized and subjected to torture, according to a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee published in 2014. In 2006, they were transferred to Guantánamo.
It is not clear why it has taken so long to file charges with the military commission. Military prosecutors filed charges against the men in June 2017, but the Pentagon legal official overseeing the Guantanamo cases rejected the charges for reasons that have not been publicly disclosed.
The case has many elements that make it complex, including whether the statements the men made to authorities can be upheld in court due to the abuse they experienced in CIA custody, the fact that the people have already been convicted, and, in some cases, executed in Indonesia. for the attack, and the time it has even taken to press charges, let alone reach a trial sometime in the future.
Some of these same problems have arisen in the case against five Guantanamo prisoners accused of planning and assisting in the September 11 attacks. They were indicted in May 2012 and remain in the pre-trial phase, with no trial date set yet.
Amin’s attorney, Christine Funk, predicted a lengthy defense investigation period that will require extensive travel, once the pandemic is over, to interview witnesses and seek evidence. Still, he said, his client is “eager and eager to litigate this case and go home.”