Updated at 10:55 a.m. ET on 2017-06-30
Fourteen years after detaining him, the United States says it will file terrorism charges against the once powerful Indonesian militant, Hambali, in a move that Jakarta says will provide him transparency and legal certainty.
Hambali, detained at the U.S. military’s Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, was notified last week that prosecutors are making preparations to charge him before a military commission at the U.S. base in Cuba, according to the Pentagon.
No firm date has been given for hearing the case against Hambali, once the most powerful Southeast Asian leader of the al-Qaeda terror network led by Osama bin Laden who masterminded the 9/11 attacks in the United States that left nearly 3,000 people dead.
“At point in time, no charges have been forwarded to the Convening Authority’s office, so I will be unable to provide any sort of confirmation statement,” Pentagon spokesman Maj. Ben Sakrisson told BenarNews in an email response.
The Convening Authority’s office, among groups within the Pentagon responsible for the overall management of the military commission’s process, is in charge of referring charges to trial.
Hambali is acccused of terrorism and murder, among other charges, including conspiring with Al-Qaeda leaders in a spate of attacks, notably the Bali bombings in October 2002 that killed 202 people.
The Indonesian government is aware of the charges against Hambali, an official told BenarNews, and has been in contact with Hambali’s lawyer through its embassy in Washington “to closely monitor the legal process.”
“The Indonesian government regards this as a U.S. government internal process,” Ahmad Rizal Purnama, the embassy’s political counselor, told BenarNews.
“For Indonesia, Hambali being charged by military prosecutors would provide him transparency and legal certainty,” he said. “The Indonesian government would ensure that his legal rights are met and continue to communicate with Hambali’s lawyer.”
Based on the charge sheet provided to BenarNews by the Office of the Chief Prosecutor of Military Commissions, Hambali is accused of “murder in violation of the law of war, attempted murder in violation of war, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, attacking of civilians, attacking civilian objects [and] destruction of property, in violation of the law of war.”
He allegedly orchestrated the Bali bombings and an August 2003 attack that killed 11 people at the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta.
Australia suffered the largest number of casualties in the Bali bombings – 88 dead – followed by Indonesia with 38. The charge sheet names all the victims, including seven Americans who were killed.
Marine Corps Brig. Gen. John Baker, the chief defense counsel, said in an email that he was notified prosecutors do not intend to seek the death penalty even though some of the charges are potentially capital offenses, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.
Baker said he would be submitting a request for additional resources to “effectively represent” Hambali but the decision to not seek the death penalty means he will not have to find experienced capital attorneys, the AP report said. Such lawyers are typically civilians.
In October 2016, the Guantanamo Periodic Review Board, tasked with cutting the number of inmates at the facility, rejected Hambali’s appeal for release, saying in a statement that he remained a “significant threat to the security of the United States.”
Indonesian officials reportedly said then that if Hambali were to be released, they would be reluctant to accept his repatriation for fear his return could spark a revival among domestic terror cells.
Hambali, whose birth name is Encep Nurjaman and who is also referred to as Riduan Isomudin, is among 41 prisoners at Guantanamo.
If the U.S. presses a case against him, he would be the first charged under President Donald Trump’s administration.
Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata in Jakarta contributed to this report.