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3 Held at Gitmo for 15 Years Set to Get First Day in Court

They're accused in the deadly 2002 Bali nightclub bombings and other plots
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 30, 2021 1:05 PM CDT
3 Held at Gitmo for 15 Years Set to Get First Day in Court
In this photo reviewed by US military officials, a flag flies at half-staff in honor of the US service members and other victims killed in the terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, as seen through a fence at Camp Justice, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(Newser) – Three prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are expected to get their first day in court after being held for 18 years in connection with the deadly 2002 Bali nightclub bombings and other plots in Southeast Asia. The AP explains:

  • Who. Indonesian prisoner Encep Nurjaman, known as Hambali, and two Malaysians he recruited are to be arraigned Monday before a military commission on charges that include murder, conspiracy, and terrorism.
  • What. It is merely the first step in what could be a long legal journey for a case that involves evidence tainted by CIA torture, the same issue that is largely responsible for causing other war crimes cases to languish for years at Guantanamo. The hearing also comes as the Biden administration says it intends to close the detention center, where the US still holds 39 men.

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  • Where. All three were captured in Thailand in 2003 and transferred to CIA "black sites" where they were brutalized and subjected to torture, according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report released in 2014. In 2006, they were moved to Guantanamo.
  • When. The decision to charge them was made by a Pentagon legal official at the end of the Trump administration, complicating the effort to close the detention center, said a lawyer for Mohammed Nazir bin Lep, one of the Malaysian men. That made it more difficult for the new administration to add any to the list of those who could potentially be transferred out of Guantanamo or even sent home.
  • But. Whether the arraignment would actually take place was not certain. Lawyers have sought to put the case on hold for a number of reasons, including what they have said is insufficient access to interpreters and other resources to mount a defense. The Navy judge presiding over the case is expected to consider that question before the charges can be formally presented. The accused were still expected to show up for the hearing.
  • Other bumps. The case has many elements that make it complex, including whether statements the men made to authorities can hold up in court because of the abuse they experienced in CIA custody, the fact that people have already been convicted and even executed in Indonesia for the attack, and the long time it has taken to even bring charges.
  • PS. Some of these same issues have come up in the case against five Guantanamo prisoners charged for planning and aiding the Sept. 11 attacks. They were arraigned in May 2012 and remain in the pretrial phase, with no trial date yet scheduled.
(Read more Guantanamo Bay stories.)

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