Guantanamo prosecutor charges three over Southeast Asia terror plots
A US prosecutor has issued charges against the alleged leader of an al-Qaeda affiliate in Southeast Asia, blaming him for the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing and adding two Malaysian captives to the proposed case as alleged co-conspirators.
A copy of the non-capital charge sheet obtained by The Miami Herald, accuses Indonesian Riduan bin Isomuddin, known as Hambali, of sending fighters from his Islamic extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah to Afghanistan after the September 11, attacks to meet Osama bin Laden and carry out suicide bombings.
The would-be suicide bombers were Bashir Lap, known as Lillie; and Mohd Farik Bin Amin, known as Zubair, two Malaysian prisoners at Guantanamo 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.
Pentagon officials provided no explanation for the development. In June, the war court prosecutor charged Hambali, blaming him for the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings and the 2003 attack on the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta that between them killed more than 200 people. But Army Brigadier General Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor, never moved forward on them.
The new charges still accuse Hambali of a role in the three simultaneous October 12, 2002 bombings in the Indonesian island tourist destination of Bali – in a pub, near a dance club and the US Consulate – that killed 202 people. Australia sustained the largest number of casualties, 88 dead, followed by Indonesia with 38. Seven Americans were also killed.
But the new charges also accuse Hambali and the two Malaysians of conspiring in the Jakarta bombing of the Marriott, which 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 Guantanamo on September 4, 2006 as so-called high-value captives. None has been charged with a crime. President Barack Obama’s administration classified all three men as “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 continue the case. Rishikof can decide whether to make it a death-penalty prosecution. For now, that box on the form is not ticked in the copy obtained by the Herald.
Ten of Guantanamo’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 has turned government witness in the proposed Hambali prosecution.
It alleges a broad war crimes conspiracy stretching from January 1993 until August 2003, when all three men were captured in Thailand in a joint US-Thai operation and sent to secret CIA prisons known as the black sites.
At the war court this week, defence lawyers are seeking dismissal of charges against one of the alleged September 11 conspirators on the grounds the US “war on terror” did not begin until nearly after a month after September 11, with the invasion of Afghanistan.
Soon after the September 11 attacks, Hambali’s charge sheet alleges, he chose the two Malaysians to be part of a suicide squad in the US, perhaps California. By then, the war court prosecutor claims, Hambali had already begun sending followers to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan to learn how to make bombs.
Zubair and Lillie swore a post September 11 oath of allegiance to bin Laden and agreed to take part in a four-man suicide mission. The charges do not name 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-Qaeda cash from Bangkok to Indonesia and the Philippines.
The charges shows US$50,000 in cash sent by the accused September 11 plot mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed going to fund the bombing of the Marriott. The cash was carried from Pakistan to Bangkok by a US-educated captive at Guantanamo, Majid Khan, who has pleaded guilty to war crimes and turned government witness.