Bali’s Guantanamo bomb case faces immediate challenges
Prosecutors Brian Bouffard, left, accompanied by U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Aaron Shephard and U.S. Air Force Maj. Jason Cordova answer questions after day two of an impeachment hearing for their client, Malaysian accused Mohammed Nazir bin Lep, on Tuesday, August 31, 2021, at the Guantanamo Bay naval base, Cuba. (Alex Brandon / AP)
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL STATION, Cuba – Three men detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention center were formally charged Tuesday in connection with the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings and other conspiracies in Southeast Asia after 18 years of detention in the United States, with defense attorneys later insisting that the long-delayed indictment was so flawed it may need to be repeated.
The men appeared in a secure courthouse surrounded by razor wire at the U.S. base in Cuba amid defense complaints against courtroom interpreters that prompted what was supposed to be a brief indictment before a military judge in a two-day case.
It was a difficult start for a case already expected to be complex due to the prolonged detention without charge for the three – one Indonesian and two Malaysians – and the brutal treatment they suffered while in detention by the CIA.
Encep Nurjaman, the Indonesian militant leader known as Hambali, and the two Malaysians are on trial by a military commission, which combines elements of civil and military law, on charges of murder, terrorism and conspiracy. They have not yet filed pleadings.
The start of their long-delayed case comes as other war crimes courts at Guantanamo have languished unresolved for years amid court challenges and President Joe Biden says he intends to shut down the facility. detention, which now detains 39 of the 779 men who were brought in. at the base after the September 11 attacks.
“Frankly, after this two-day indictment, I saw no evidence that he would get a fair trial,” said Christine Funk, lawyer for Mohammed Farik bin Amin, one of the Malaysian defendants.
The defense complained that the language skills of a Malay interpreter were so weak that at least one defendant could not understand what was being said in court; that another Malay interpreter was inappropriately working for the prosecution because he had previously assisted prisoners when they appeared before a prisoner review board at Guantanamo; and that an Indonesian interpreter had been heard denigrating the men as terrorists who should be killed.
The judge, a naval commander, allowed proceedings to continue despite repeated objections. Defense lawyer Brian Bouffard, who represents Malaysian defendant Mohammed Nazir bin Lep, said the indictment was so flawed it should be redone.
“We have to have a new one because you have to make one and this one hasn’t been done well,” Bouffard said.
Nurjaman was a leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian militant group linked to al-Qaida. The government says it recruited bin Lep and bin Amin, among others, for jihadist operations, and that the two Malaysians helped transfer money for their plots.
Among the plots carried out by al-Qaida and Jemaah Islamiyah are the October 2002 suicide bombings at Paddy’s Pub and Sari Club in Bali, Indonesia, and the August 2003 suicide bombing at JW Marriott in Jakarta, Indonesia. Indonesia. The attacks killed 213 people, including seven Americans. The Bali bombing killed 88 Australians.
It is not clear why it took so long to bill them to the commission. Prosecutors filed charges against the men in June 2017, but the Pentagon legal official who oversees Guantanamo’s affairs has dismissed the charges for reasons that have not been publicly disclosed.
All three were captured in Thailand in 2003 and transferred to CIA “black sites”, where they were brutalized and subjected to torture, according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report released in 2014. In 2006, they were doing this. part of a group of 14 men transferred to Guantanamo will be tried by a military commission.
Lawyers for Nurjaman and the two Malaysians are expected to argue that the abuse they suffered tainted any evidence against them, an argument is also a key aspect of other war crimes cases at Guantanamo.
Former President Barack Obama, who ordered the detention center to close early in his administration, had tried to refer some commission cases to a US federal court, but turned the tide amid political opposition and the Congress ultimately blocked efforts to close the prison.