Jakarta 'reluctant to accept' Gitmo detainee Hambali

Indonesia is reluctant to accept the repatriation of notorious Guantanamo Bay inmate Hambali over fears that his return could spark a revival among domestic terror cells, senior government officials told The Straits Times yesterday.

The Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terrorist may be sent home if United States President Barack Obama successfully shuts the detention centre and American authorities decide not to detain him further.

The Indonesian government is discussing the possible return of the JI operations chief, although officials said yesterday that a decision on the country's position is not expected any time soon.

"We are still discussing the issue because there are many other considerations," said Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan, when asked if a decision has been made to revoke Hambali's citizenship and refuse him entry into Indonesia.

Hambali, whose real name is Riduan Isamuddin, was transferred to Guantanamo Bay camp about 10 years ago after he was captured in Bangkok in 2003.

He is believed to have orchestrated and arranged for the funding of the October 2002 Bali bombings, which remain Indonesia's deadliest terror attack.

Hambali, 50, faces the prospect of returning home to face charges for the murder of the 202 people killed in the blasts, said counter-terrorism experts such as Mr Adhe Bhakti.

But Mr Adhe said that Hambali would still have useful intelligence for counter-terrorism agencies.

"For a start, if Hambali were tried here, that could help shed light on the Bali bombings, especially whether Abu Bakar Bashir was actually involved," he added.

Bashir, who was the spiritual leader of the JI, had his conviction for the Bali incident quashed.

Hambali's return to Indonesia, however, is not a given, said an official who asked not to be named.

"The Americans must first decide if they want to release him to us - we don't know yet because we have not been approached about it," he said.

Mr Obama said last month he plans to shut down the Guantanamo facility in Cuba.

It was set up following the Sept 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2016, with the headline 'Jakarta 'reluctant to accept' Gitmo detainee Hambali'. Print Edition | Subscribe