US torture was a key issue in the Bali bombing plea deal

Prosecutors have told relatives of the victims of the 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia, that the U.S. government has struck a plea deal with two Malaysian prisoners to try to separate the legacy of torture from the eventual trial of a prisoner they accuse of being an Al Napadi-linked mastermind. Kaidom.

Two Malaysians testified in secret during the sentencing last month. Depending on what they said, their testimony could be used against the man accused of being the mastermind, an Indonesian prisoner known as Hambali, in an effort to avoid protracted litigation over whether earlier evidence was voluntarily obtained.

The legacy of torture has complicated prosecutors’ efforts to hold trials in the better-known cases of the 9/11 bombings and the USS Cole at Guantanamo Bay.

Like the terror suspects in those cases, the Bali bombing defendants were kept naked in prison-like conditions, deprived of sleep through painful shackles and subjected to a technique resembling waterboarding during their detention in CIA prisons from 2003 to in 2006. They were kept in solitary confinement. It was all fodder for defense lawyers trying to discredit evidence that prosecutors hope to use in war crimes trials.

The plea deal came last month in two weeks of slow-moving proceedings at Guantanamo Bay. Prosecutors brought family members from Europe and the United States to testify about their grief. A military jury then sentenced the two defendants, Mohammed Farik Bin Amin and Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep, to a further 23 years in prison.

But separately, a military judge, Col. Wesley A. Braun, revealed a two-step reduction in their sentences and a recommendation for repatriation that could eventually mean they return home this year.

The agreement surprised and angered some friends and family of the 202 people who were killed in the attack on October 12, 2002.

Jan Iaczynski from Melbourne, Australia, was in a pub in Bali before the blasts, but lost five friends that night. He followed the proceedings at Guantanamo via social media and transcripts sometimes released by the Pentagon.

Sir. Iaczynski called the sentencing hearing a “sham trial” that provided less transparency than early trials of Southeast Asian perpetrators, some of whom have long since been convicted and executed.

But families brought to the base as witnesses say prosecutors set them up for disappointment.

Matthew Arnold of Birmingham, England, said prosecutors said the plea deal was necessary “to make a viable criminal case against Hambali.” Mr Arnold’s brother, Timothy, was killed in the bombing while visiting Bali for a rugby tournament.

He described the strategy, relayed by the prosecution, as essentially using Malaysians as “scapegoats for bigger fish”: Mr. Hambali.

Col. George C. Kraehe, the senior prosecutor, “told us he was disappointed,” said Mary Panagoulas, whose 27-year-old brother, Dimitri, a Greek-Swedish citizen, was killed in Bali. However, the prosecutor also advised that the testimony of the Malaysians in the plea agreement “will help the Hambali case”. Colonel Kraehe declined to comment.

Susanna Miller, whose brother Dan, a British citizen, was killed, said prosecutors told family members about the deals “as a courtesy” before the judge made it public. She described the agreement as necessary to “cleanse” the case of evidence obtained through torture.

The three men have been held by the United States since they were captured in the summer of 2003 in Thailand. But the US government waited until 2021 to bring them to trial, and prosecutors struggled to prepare evidence for trial.

A month after Mr. Hambali was captured, according to a CIA cable, an American interrogator told him that he “will never go to court because ‘we can never let the world know what I did to you.'”

Mr. Hambali’s lawyer, James R. Hodes, declined to discuss what was done to his client, but called the prosecution’s approach absurd. “Torture can never be cleansed,” Mr. Hodes said. “The idea that testimony could somehow exonerate evidence obtained through torture is against our democratic foundations and the rule of law.”

Before the Malaysians testified last month, a judge dismissed charges accusing them of conspiring with Mr. Hambali in other deadly plots, making it unclear how their testimony could be helpful.

In their plea, the Malaysians said they had no personal knowledge of any role Mr Hambali may have played in the Bali bombings. “I didn’t know anything about the Bali bombing until it happened,” said Mr. Bin Amin to the jury. The prosecutors did not challenge him for that.

Both said they learned from newspaper articles that Mr. Hambali, whose full name is Encep Nurjaman, was wanted as a suspected mastermind. They described their role in the plot as helping him avoid arrest and helping to move cash that benefited other criminals.

The judge has not set a trial date as the government continues to prepare secret evidence for the court to review.

Prosecutors missed so many deadlines to share evidence with the court and defense teams that at the end of last year the judge began to issue penalty loans against any potential conviction. It is not known how that credit would have applied to Mr. Hambali if he had been sentenced to life in prison, the maximum sentence in his case.

For the families who testified, the focus is now on Hambali’s trial. Prosecutors said it would not begin until next year.

Mrs. Miller plans to bring her mother from England to testify. Ms Panagoulas wants her parents to travel to Guantanamo from their home in Athens.

She described complicated views on the government’s use of torture. “Some families of the victims were comforted by the knowledge that they were tortured, not just our families,” she said, describing the terrible death of her brother Dimitri.

At least 85 percent of his body was burned in the bombing. He was flown a thousand miles from Bali to Darwin, Australia, for treatment, but died two days after the attack.

Leave a Comment