US military moves to try Bali bomb suspects at Guantanamo

Associated Press

Washington – The Pentagon announced plans Thursday to move ahead with a military trial for three men held at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who are suspected of involvement in bombings in Indonesia in 2002 and 2003.

A senior military legal official approved non-capital charges that include conspiracy, murder and terrorism for their alleged roles in the deadly bombing of Bali nightclubs in 2002 and a year later of a J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta.

The men have been in U.S. custody since 2003, and military prosecutors have previously moved to charge them before the military commission at Guantanamo, but the Pentagon official, known as a convening authority, never signed off on the charges.

The next step would be an arraignment at the base, but proceedings there have been halted by the pandemic.

Encep Nurjaman, who is known as Hambali, is alleged to have been the leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian affiliate of al-Qaida. The Pentagon said in a brief statement on the case that he is accused with Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep and Mohammed Farik Bin Amin of planning and providing assistance in the attacks.

The 2002 bombings on the tourist island of Bali killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists, and left a deep scar in Indonesia. The attack on the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta killed 12.

Military proceedings at Guantanamo have bogged down for years because of legal challenges and the logistical difficulty of holding court hearings at the remote base. The most prominent case, involving five men charged in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack, has been stuck in the pre-trial phase since their arraignment in May 2012 with no date yet established for the trial.

The U.S. holds 40 men at Guantanamo. President Joe Biden has said he favors closing the detention center but has not yet disclosed his plans for the facility.