Guantanamo judge sets January schedule for guilty pleas in Indonesian bombings

John Bechtel
Fort Meade, United States
Guantanamo judge sets January schedule for guilty pleas in Indonesian bombings Attorney Christine Funk (right), who represents Malaysian defendant Mohammed Farik bin Amin, speaks to reporters following his arraignment hearing at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, Aug. 31, 2021.
Alex Brandon/AP

UPDATED at 11:40 a.m. ET on 2023-10-24

A U.S. military judge on Monday announced plans to accept guilty pleas early next year from two Malaysians who have been imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay for 17 years over their alleged roles in deadly bombings in Bali and Jakarta two decades ago.

Judge Wesley Braun announced that a court session would be held during the week of Jan. 15, where he expects to receive guilty pleas from Mohammed Farik bin Amin and Mohammed Nazir bin Lep, and to hold sentencing hearings about a week later.

“The timeline we are working with here is aggressive,” Braun told military prosecutors and lawyers representing the Malaysians.

The courtroom proceedings from the U.S. naval base in Cuba were broadcast via a video link to reporters covering the session from Fort Meade, a base in Maryland.

“We are going to hit that deadline in January very quickly,” Braun said.

Meanwhile, the lawyer for Indonesian Encep Nurjaman, who was charged with the Malaysians but whose case has been separated from them, said he does not expect a plea agreement in his case.

Monday’s announcement of plea discussions showed that the prosecution and defense teams for bin Amin and bin Lep had been working to reach an outcome that would not require a trial.

Bin Amin and bin Lep have been charged with conspiracy, murder, attempted murder, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, terrorism, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects and destruction of property linked to the bombings that took place in Indonesia in 2002 and 2003.

The 2002 twin blasts in Bali killed 202 people – Indonesia’s worst-ever terrorist attack.

The court did not release details about what charges would be included in the guilty pleas.

Braun and the lawyers spent a portion of Monday’s two-hour hearing setting a schedule to present evidence and other preparations needed before the January court action – including what questions to ask bin Amin and bin Lep regarding their pleas.

A recent court document pointed to the likelihood that bin Amin was prepared to enter a plea, potentially as soon as Monday’s hearing. A subsequent document in the chain added bin Lep.

Christine Funk, bin Amin’s lead attorney, told Braun she was concerned that her team would not have enough time to examine all evidence from the prosecutors in less than two months.

In a document prior to the hearing, the court allowed bin Lep’s lead attorney, Brian Bouffard, and two others assigned to the case to be absent because they were “engaged in mission-related work in Southeast Asia.”

Bin Amin, bin Lep and Nurjaman (also known as Hambali) were charged following their arrests in Thailand in 2003. The three were sent to secret CIA prisons overseas – so-called black sites – where they were tortured before being sent to the U.S. military prison camp in Cuba, according to a 2014 U.S. Senate report.

Hambali is scheduled to appear alone in court on Wednesday for what has been scheduled as a two-day hearing.

“There will not be a guilty plea,” defense attorney James Hodes told BenarNews.

In September, BenarNews reported that Malaysian officials had met with counterparts in the U.S. to discuss allowing bin Amin and bin Lep to return home.

Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said he discussed the matter with Tina Kaidanow, the U.S. special representative for Guantanamo affairs, while he was in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly. He also said he had traveled to Cuba to meet with the two defendants but did not say when that meeting occurred.

This story was updated to include a comment from defense attorney James Hodes.


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