Ji­hadist faces bomb­ing charges

‘Mas­ter­mind’ of Bali and Jakarta at­tacks could stand trial for war crimes in Guantanamo Bay court.

Sunday Star-Times - - WORLD - June 25, 2017

An Amer­i­can war court pros­e­cu­tor has filed ter­ror charges against an In­done­sian cap­tive at Guantanamo known as Ham­bali, ac­cus­ing him of con­spir­ing in the 2002 Bali night­club bomb­ings and the 2003 at­tack on the J W Mar­riott ho­tel in Jakarta, which be­tween them killed more than 200 peo­ple.

When or whether Rid­uan ‘‘Ham­bali’’ Iso­mud­din, 53, will ac­tu­ally go to court is not yet known.

At the war court, the pros­e­cu­tion pre­pares the charges and has them de­liv­ered to the pris­oner, and also to a se­nior Pen­tagon of­fi­cial, Con­ven­ing Au­thor­ity Harvey Rishikof, for review and a de­ci­sion on whether to go for­ward. One thing Rishikof could get to de­cide is whether the mat­ter will go to trial as a death penalty case.

Ham­bali is the first Guantanamo pris­oner to be charged dur­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion of US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. If Rishikof ap­proves it, he would be the 11th of Guantanamo’s 41 cap­tives to be in­volved in war crimes pro­ceed­ings.

Ham­bali’s charge sheet, ob­tained by the Mi­ami Her­ald, de­scribes him as hav­ing di­rected three si­mul­ta­ne­ous bomb­ings in Bali that killed 202 peo­ple on Oc­to­ber 12, 2002 – in a pub, near a dance club and the US Con­sulate. Australia suf­fered the largest num­ber of ca­su­al­ties, 88, fol­lowed by Indonesia with 38. Two New Zealan­ders were also killed.

The charge sheet also names seven Amer­i­cans who were killed, a likely ba­sis for pros­e­cut­ing the case at the US Navy base in Cuba.

Ac­cord­ing to the charges, the death toll in Bali ‘‘sur­prised’’ Ham­bali be­cause ‘‘he did not ex­pect so many peo­ple to die’’.

Then in 2003, the pros­e­cu­tor al­leges, Ham­bali had deputies pick up US$50,000 from al Qaeda, sent by a courier from Pak­istan, which was meant to fund a ter­ror­ist op­er­a­tion. The courier was Ma­jid Khan, an­other former CIA cap­tive who pleaded guilty to the crime in 2012 and is await­ing sen­tenc­ing af­ter he tes­ti­fies for the US gov­ern­ment, ap­par­ently against Ham­bali, if the charges are ap­proved.

In plead­ing guilty, Khan agreed that the money could have been used to fund the Au­gust 2003 at­tack on the Mar­riott ho­tel, which killed 10 In­done­sians and a Dutch cit­i­zen and wounded three Amer­i­cans.

Ham­bali has been held at Guantanamo since Septem­ber 2006, and be­fore that spent 31⁄2 years in CIA cus­tody, where, ac­cord­ing to a US Se­nate ‘‘tor­ture re­port’’, an in­ter­roga­tor told him that he would never go to court, be­cause ‘‘we can never let the world know what I have done to you’’.

US in­tel­li­gence con­sid­ers him ‘‘an op­er­a­tional mas­ter­mind’’ in the South­east Asia-based Islamic ex­trem­ist group Je­maah Is­lamiyah, and the main link be­tween that group and al Qaeda from 2000 un­til he was cap­tured in Thai­land in Au­gust 2003, in a joint US-Thai op­er­a­tion.

The charge sheet does not spell out whether the chief pros­e­cu­tor, US Army Bri­gadier Gen­eral Mark Martins, is seek­ing the death penalty in the case. Martins de­clined to com­ment.

The charge sheet casts Ham­bali as a leader of Je­maah Is­lamiyah who be­gan send­ing fol­low­ers to al Qaeda in Afghanistan in the late 1990s for train­ing, specif­i­cally in bomb­ing. Two al­leged acolytes iden­ti­fied in the charge sheets are Malaysians known as Lil­lie and Zubair, both of whom were cap­tured the same month as Ham­bali and are be­ing held as un­charged ‘‘for­ever’’ pris­on­ers at Guantanamo.

The charges also al­lege that Ham­bali dis­patched Lil­lie, Zubair and two other Malaysians to meet al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan’s cap­i­tal, Kabul, af­ter the 9/11 ter­ror at­tacks. He had cho­sen them as would-be sui­cide bombers for a post-9/11 at­tack in the US, per­haps in Cal­i­for­nia.

The charges also por­tray Ham­bali as an ac­tive par­tic­i­pant in would-be at­tacks. One al­leges that he per­son­ally car­ried out sur­veil­lance on pos­si­ble tar­gets in Manila in De­cem­ber 2000, in­clud­ing the US and Is­raeli em­bassies.

The Se­nate re­port noted that af­ter his cap­ture in 2003, Ham­bali ‘‘was co­op­er­a­tive’’ with his CIA in­ter­roga­tors, who nonethe­less sub­jected him to ‘‘en­hanced in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques’’ a month into his cus­tody. In re­sponse, ac­cord­ing to the re­port, he pro­vided or con­firmed in­for­ma­tion, think­ing that was what his in­ter­roga­tors wanted to hear – ma­te­rial that sub­se­quent CIA anal­y­sis con­cluded was not true.

It is not known pre­cisely what was done to him, but the tor­ture re­port says he was not wa­ter­boarded.


Ham­bali ‘‘did not ex­pect so many peo­ple to die’’ in the Bali bomb­ings, pros­e­cu­tors say.

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