The war court prosecutor has issued new charges against the alleged leader of an al-Qaida affiliate in southeast Asia, blaming him for the grisly 2002 Bali nightclub bombing and this time adding two Malaysian captives to the proposed case as alleged co-conspirators.
A copy of the non-capital charge sheet, obtained early Saturday by the Miami Herald, accuses Indonesian Riduan bin Isomuddin, 53, known as Hambali, of dispatching fighters from his Islamic extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah to Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to meet with Osama bin Laden and carry out suicide bombings.
The would-be suicide bombers were Bashir Lap, 41, known as Lilie, and Mohd Farik Bin Amin, 42, known as Zubair, two Malaysian prisoners here cast as Hambali acolytes. Together the three are accused of murder, terrorism, attacking civilians and civilian objects, attempted murder, intentionally causing serious bodily injury and destruction of property as a war crime.
A Pentagon official provided no explanation for the development. In June, the war court prosecutor swore out charges against Hambali blaming him for both the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings and the 2003 attack on the JW Marriott in Jakarta, Indonesia, that together killed more than 200 people. But Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor, never moved forward on them.
The new charges still accuse Hambali of a role in the three simultaneous Oct. 12, 2002, bombings in the lush Indonesian island tourist destination of Bali — in a pub, near a dance club and the U.S. Consulate — that killed 202 people. Australia suffered the largest number of casualties, 88 dead, followed by Indonesia with 38. Seven Americans were also killed.
But they also accuse Hambali and the two Malaysians of conspiring in the Jakarta bombing of the Marriott that killed 11 people.
Both attacks, according to the charges, were “calculated to influence and affect the conduct of the United States government and civilian population by intimidation and coercion,” perhaps a basis for prosecuting the case at the war crimes tribunals.
All three of the men charged in the southeast Asia conspiracy case arrived at Guantánamo on Sept. 4, 2006, as so-called high-value captives. None have ever been charged with a crime. Former President Barack Obama’s review boards classified all three men as indefinite detainees in the Law of War, or “forever prisoners” considered too dangerous to release.
The next step in the proposed case will be for the prosecutor to send the charges to a senior Pentagon official, Convening Authority Harvey Rishikof, to decide whether to go forward with the case. The prosecutor never did that with an earlier non-capital case that targeted Hambali singularly on June 20. The form Rishikof would use allows him to decide whether to make it a death-penalty prosecution. For now, the copy obtained by the Herald does not check that box.
It was unclear how soon the case might get to court; Camp Justice’s 2018 calendar is packed.
Currently 10 of Guantánamo’s 41 captives have had war crimes cases, two on guilty pleas to cooperate with the prosecutors. There is no sign, yet, that either of the deputies have turned government witness in the proposed Hambali prosecution.
It alleges a broad war crimes conspiracy stretching from January 1993 through August 2003, when all three men were captured in Thailand in a joint U.S.-Thai operation and sent to the CIA offshore secret prison network known as the Black Sites.
The timing is intriguing. At the war court this week, defense lawyers are seeking dismissal of charges against one of the alleged Sept. 11 attacks conspirators on grounds that the U.S. War on Terror did not begin until nearly after a month after 9/11, with the invasion of Afghanistan.
Soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, Hambali’s charge sheet alleges, the Indonesian chose the two Malaysians to be part of a suicide squad in the United States, perhaps California. By then, the war court prosecutor alleges, Hambali had already begun sending jihadi followers to al-Qaida in Afghanistan for training on bomb making.
Zubair and Lilie, as the two Malaysians are known, swore a post 9/11 oath of allegiance to bin Laden and agreed to take part in a four-man suicide mission. The charges don’t spell out their intended target.
They returned to southeast Asia to carry out a series of missions for Hambali, the charges say, including shopping for weapons and travel documents with fake identities in Cambodia; doing surveillance on an Israeli airline counter in Thailand; and being couriers of al-Qaida cash from Bangkok to Indonesia and the Philippines.
The charges show $50,000 in cash sent by the accused Sept. 11 plot mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed going to fund the bombings of the Marriott. The cash was carried from Pakistan to Bangkok by a U.S.-educated captive at Guantánamo, Majid Khan, who has pleaded guilty to war crimes and turned government witness.
It is not known why it took the Pentagon prosecutor more than a decade after their arrival at Guantánamo to prepare the charges.
But, while in CIA custody, according to the so-called Senate Torture Report, an interrogator told Hambali “that he would never go to court, because ‘we can never let the world know what I have done to you.’ ” It is also not known what was done to him. But, the portion of the Senate report that has been released to the public says, he was not waterboarded. Other so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the CIA, according to the report, included long stretches of being shackled in painful positions, being slapped or slammed into a wall, being kept nude or in diapers, confined in a coffin-like box and subject to rectal rehydration, sleep deprivation and dietary manipulation.