US charges Indonesian, Malaysian extremists over 2002 Bali bombings

Charges filed against JI chief Hambali, two aides after more than 14 years at Guantanamo jail

(From top) Riduan Isamuddin, Mohammed Nazir Lep and Mohammed Farik Amin were captured in Thailand nearly 18 years ago.
(From left) Riduan Isamuddin, Mohammed Nazir Lep and Mohammed Farik Amin were captured in Thailand nearly 18 years ago.

WASHINGTON • US military prosecutors have filed formal charges against an Indonesian Islamist extremist and two others in the 2002 Bali bombings and 2003 Jakarta attack.

The charges were filed by the Pentagon on Thursday, nearly 18 years after the three were captured in Thailand and after each has spent more than 14 years in the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The first charged was Indonesian militant Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, the leader of the Indonesian terror group Jemaah Islamiah (JI) and believed to have been Al-Qaeda's top representative in the region.

The group, with support from Al-Qaeda, carried out bombings of tourist nightclubs on Bali on Oct 12, 2002 that killed 202, and the Aug 5, 2003 attack on the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta that left 12 dead and scores injured.

The other two charged, Malaysians Mohammed Nazir Lep and Mohammed Farik Amin, were top Hambali aides in JI who had undergone training by Al-Qaeda, according to Guantanamo case documents.

"The charges include conspiracy, murder, attempted murder, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, terrorism, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, destruction of property, and accessory after the fact, all in violation of the law of war," the Pentagon said in a statement.

It was not clear why the charges before Guantanamo's military tribunal were announced after years of delay. In 2016, Hambali's bid to be released from Guantanamo was rejected because, prosecutors said, he still represented a "significant threat to the security of the United States".

The charges were announced on the first full day of the administration of President Joe Biden.

When Mr Biden was Mr Barack Obama's vice-president, they sought but failed to close the navy-run prison in Guantanamo and have remaining prisoners either released or tried in US civilian courts.

Mr Obama's successor, Mr Donald Trump, showed no interest in Guantanamo and its inmates, who include top Al-Qaeda figure and 9/11 attack planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Little progress was made on the status of the 40 detainees remaining there. At its peak, around 780 "war on terror" detainees were held at the camp. Most have been released back to their countries.

Under military commission procedures, the prisoners are to be brought before a military judge for arraignment within 30 days.

But there is no resident military judge at the base, the prisoners' lawyers are based in the US, and although the base has begun coronavirus vaccinations, commanders there require all visitors to be quarantined for 14 days on arrival.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NY TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2021, with the headline 'US charges Indonesian, Malaysian extremists over 2002 Bali bombings'. Subscribe