US and Malaysia discussing deal to repatriate Malaysian detainee from Guantanamo

Mohd Farik Bin Amin (left) and Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep, two detainees at Guantánamo who were involved in the Jemaah Islamiyah militant group in the early 2000s.
Mohd Farik Bin Amin (left) and Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep, two detainees at Guantánamo who were involved in the Jemaah Islamiyah militant group in the early 2000s. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Obama administration is negotiating with Malaysia over a deal to repatriate and continue to incarcerate a Guantánamo Bay detainee accused of being an accessory to two major terrorist attacks in Indonesia, officials said.

While challenges remain, the prospective deal is important because it could set up a way to prosecute the detainee and two others, including an Indonesian terrorist Riduan Isamuddin, also known as Hambali, who is accused of masterminding the two attacks. They are among the 30 men who have been held in indefinite wartime detention without charges for more than a decade and who are still deemed too dangerous to release.

The high-level talks also have broader importance for the future of America's security cooperation and relationship with Malaysia. They are being held amid tensions over China's efforts to assert greater control over the South China Sea and over a scandal involving Malaysia's prime minister, whom the Justice Department recently accused in a civil complaint of playing a role in a billion-dollar corruption scheme.

The State and Defense departments envoys for closing Guantánamo, Lee Wolosky and Paul Lewis, and the chief prosecutor of the military commissions system, Brig Gen Mark Martins, met Nov 2 with the Malaysian deputy prime minister and other top Malaysian officials to discuss the potential deal, officials said.

The talks centre on a Malaysian detainee at Guantánamo, Mohd Farik Bin Amin, better known as Zubair. Along with another Malaysian detainee, Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep, who is often called Lillie, Zubair is accused of helping Hambali evade arrest after the 2002 nightclub bombings in Bali and of moving funds later used to finance the 2003 Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta.

Both Zubair and Lillie have been held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp since 2006.

The idea is that Zubair would plead guilty to terrorism offenses before a US military commission and agree to testify against Lillie and Hambali. If he lives up to that promise and serves about four more years in US custody, Zubair would be repatriated to Malaysia to serve the remainder of his sentence.

The Obama administration declined to comment on the deliberations. The officials who described them spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal is not public or final. Lawyers for Hambali and Lillie said they had heard rumours of movement but had no details.