Guantanamo prosecution asks for 2025 date in Bali bombing trial

Lawyers leading case against Hambali say more time needed to prepare as defence criticises delays.

a US soldier walks between two gates with razor wires on top of both gates in Guantanamo bay.
Hambali and his co-accused have been in Guantanamo for 17 years [File: John Moore/Getty Images]

Medan, Indonesia – Military prosecutors at Guantanamo Bay have suggested that the full trial of Hambali, detained over attacks that killed hundreds in Indonesia, start in March 2025, even though he and his two co-accused have been in detention for 17 years.

Hambali, an Indonesian whose real name is Encep Nurjaman, has been held at Guantanamo since 2006 along with his co-accused, Malaysian nationals Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep and Mohammed Farik Bin Amin.

Hambali is accused of involvement in the Bali bombings in 2002, which left more than 200 people dead, including United States citizens, and the JW Marriott hotel attack in 2003 in Jakarta, in which 11 people died.

The Indonesian’s lead counsel James Hodes told Al Jazeera his client was doing “as good as can be” considering this prolonged detention and that the proceedings went “as well as we could expect and the judge and observers got to hear a lot about the problems we are facing”.

Those problems include issues with interpreters, which Hodes said took up almost all of the third day of proceedings, as well as the testimony of Imam Samudra, one of the original masterminds of the Bali attack who was executed in 2008 in Indonesia.

According to Hodes, US authorities failed to interview Samudra while he was still alive, and his testimony could have meant that his client was exonerated.

“Imam Samudra seemed to be the mastermind of the bombing and was available to be interviewed by the FBI, yet he wasn’t. That is not the way crimes are supposed to be investigated. The authorities are supposed to look at all possibilities,” Hodes told Al Jazeera.

In addition to the challenges around missing exculpatory witness testimony, Hodes said the lack of a speedy trial was troublesome to the defence team, which has always maintained Hambali’s innocence.

“We are now two years post-arraignment and 20 years after the fact and the prosecution is still not complete with discovery,” Hodes said.

The discovery process is when both sides exchange documents ahead of a trial and usually, the prosecution would provide such material to the defence as soon as a case begins. For Hambali, the official process to bring him to trial began in 2019 but has yet to be completed some five years later.

During the most recent hearings, the prosecution asked for a trial date of March 2025 with the judge still to make a ruling.

Hodes told Al Jazeera that the defence team was “ready” for trial but added that more delays seemed likely.

The existing military-appointed judge, Army Colonel Charles Pritchard, is due to be reassigned with a new judge set to take over.

“It is problematic if every time a judge gets up to speed on the case, they have to leave,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera