Guantánamo prosecutors forwarded a proposed Southeast Asia war crimes case to a Pentagon official for approval, only to have the case returned, a military official said Wednesday.
Navy Cmdr. Sarah Higgins related what sounded like a snafu in a brief statement from the Office of Military Commissions.
The Miami Herald reported exclusively earlier this month that the war crimes prosecutor had served non-capital charges on Indonesian captive Riduan bin Isomudin, known as Hambali, and Malaysians Bashir Lap and Mohd Farik Bin Amin, accusing them of being in league with al-Qaida and plotting terrorism in Southeast Asia after the Sept. 11 attacks. The grisly 2002 Bali nightclub bombing that killed more than 200 people was included.
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The next step requires forwarding the charges to Harvey Rishikof, the civilian with oversight of the war court. As the Convening Authority for military commissions, it is Rishikof’s role to decide whether a case merits being prosecuted, on what charges and whether a case can go forward as capital. If approved, the law requires an accused be brought before a war court judge within 30 days and arraigned, absent a request for delay by the defense attorneys.
In the instances of this trio’s case, however, Higgins said: “Charges were forwarded to the convening authority, but they were returned to the prosecution team due to a procedural issue. Therefore, as of this date formal receipt of charges by the convening authority has not occurred yet.”
She would not furnish dates for when the office of Brig. Gen. Mark Martins sent the charges, nor when Rishikof’s office returned them. Nor would she elaborate on the nature of the problem. Martins is no longer responding to questions from the news media.
Earlier this year, Martins said the transmission of charges to the convening authority should trigger public disclosure of a possible case — something that did not happen after his office forwarded the since-returned charge sheet to Martin’s office.
The non-capital charge sheet accuses Isomuddin, 53, 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 Lap, 41, known as Lilie, and 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.