GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba – The U.S. war court prosecutor has issued new charges against the alleged leader of an Al-Qaida affiliate in Southeast Asia, blaming him for the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing and this time adding two Malaysian captives to the proposed case as alleged co-conspirators.
A copy of the non-capital charge sheet, obtained Saturday 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 Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to meet with 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 Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor, never moved forward on them.
The new charges still accuse Hambali of a role in the three simultaneous Oct. 12, 2002, bombings in the Indonesian island tourist destination of Bali — in a pub, near a dance club and the U.S. 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 Sept. 4, 2006, as so-called high-value captives. None has been charged with a crime. President Barack Obama’s review boards classified all three men as indefinite detainees in the Law of War, or “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 go forward with the case. The prosecutor never did that with an earlier, non-capital case that targeted Hambali alone on June 20. The form Rishikof would use allows him to decide whether to make it a death-penalty prosecution. For now, that box is not checked 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 through August 2003, when all three men were captured in Thailand in a joint U.S.-Thai operation and sent to the CIA offshore secret prison network known as the black sites.
The timing is intriguing. At the war court this week, defense lawyers are seeking dismissal of charges against one of the alleged Sept. 11 conspirators on grounds the U.S. War on Terror did not begin until nearly a month after 9/11, with the invasion of Afghanistan.
Soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, Hambali’s charge sheet alleges, he chose the two Malaysians to be part of a suicide squad in the United States, perhaps California. By then, the war court prosecutor alleges, Hambali had already begun sending jihadi followers to Al-Qaida in Afghanistan to learn how to make bombs.
Zubair and Lillie swore a post-9/11 oath of allegiance to bin Laden and agreed to take part in a four-man suicide mission. The charges don’t spell out 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-Qaida cash from Bangkok to Indonesia and the Philippines.