Shepparton News

Bali bombings case finally begins

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Three Guantanamo Bay prisoners accused over the deadly 2002 Bali nightclub bombings have had their first day in court.

Indonesian prisoner Encep Nurjaman, known as Hambali, and two Malaysians started their arraignmen­t at a hearing at the United States base in Cuba that repeatedly stalled because of issues involving courtroom interprete­rs.

The three, who have been imprisoned for 18 years, face charges that include murder, conspiracy and terrorism.

It is the first step in what will likely be a long legal journey for a number of reasons, including that it is a complex case and that the alleged crimes took place so long ago.

The hearing also comes as the Biden administra­tion says it intends to close the detention centre, where the US still holds 39 of the 779 men seized in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks and invasion of Afghanista­n.

The three men charged in connection with the nightclub bombings were held in secret CIA confinemen­t for three years, followed by 15 more at the isolated US base in Cuba.

‘‘It’s almost 20 years later, witnesses have died, the landscape has changed dramatical­ly,’’ Brian Bouffard, a lawyer for Mohammed Nazir bin

Lep, one of the Malaysians, said before the hearing.

‘‘In my view, it’s fatal to the ability to have a fair trial.’’

It is unclear why it’s taken so long to charge them before the military commission.

Military prosecutor­s filed charges against the men in June 2017, but the Pentagon legal official who oversees Guantanamo cases rejected the charges for reasons that haven’t been publicly disclosed.

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