US court charges Indonesian militant Hambali over Bali bomb attack

Indonesia police stand in front of the monument dedicated to those killed in the 2002 Bali bombing in the tourist district of Kuta on Jan 22, 2016.
Indonesia police stand in front of the monument dedicated to those killed in the 2002 Bali bombing in the tourist district of Kuta on Jan 22, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY - A US war court has charged Indonesian militant Riduan Isamuddin, also known as Hambali, in connection with masterminding the 2002 Bali bombings in which 202 people were killed, Reuters reported.  

Hambali, who has been imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, was charged on seven different counts, including terrorism and murder in violation of the law of war, the Miami Herald reported citing a charge sheet dated June 20.

He is accused of directing three explosions on October 12, 2002, which hit a bar, nightclub and the US Consulate on the Indonesian resort island.

Two Islamist suicide bombers detonated explosives at the nightspots packed with tourists, killing 202 people, including 88 Australians. 

According to The Guardian, a military court is set to make a decision later on whether a trial will be held.

Australia, which suffered the most casualties, on Saturday (June 24) said it welcomed the charges. 

"I hope that should this prosecution succeed, it will bring closure to those devastated by the loss of loved ones, family and friends," Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters. "It has been a scar on the hearts of all Australians since these attacks occurred in 2002."

For Australia, the Bali bombs were the worst peacetime attack on its citizens, many of whom regard a holiday on sun-drenched Bali as a rite of passage.

Seven Americans and 38 Indonesians citizens were also among the dead.

Hambali has also been accused of an attack on the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta in 2003 that killed 12 people. He has also been charged in connection with that attack, The Guardian reported. 

He was captured in Bangkok, Thailand in 2003 and has been held in Guantanamo Bay without charge since 2006.

The Afghanistan-war veteran dubbed the "Osama bin Laden of South-east Asia" was seen as the main link between South-east Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiah (JI) and Al-Qaeda.

Bishop said Australia would provide whatever support it could, but did not support the death penalty. "Those responsible for the murder of 202 people, including 88 Australians, should be prosecuted, should receive the severest of punishment and should never be freed," she said.