Bin Amin and Nazir were arrested in 2003 in Thailand. Hambali, whose actual name is Encep Nurjaman, was also captured there. The three sent to CIA black sites before their transfer to Cuba.
According to their US charge sheet, they were accused of assisting Hambali – the alleged operational commander of terror group Jemaah Islamiyah – to transfer money for operations and other terrorism planning.
Hambali had allegedly sent them in 2000 to train with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan where they met Osama bin Laden, the architect of the terror attacks against the US on September 11, 2001.
While the Biden administration wants to shut down Guantanamo Bay, a process started under former president Barack Obama, a trial for the trio has been delayed by revelations that they were subject to torture in the CIA’s secret rendition program.
Hambali’s US-based lawyer James Hodes has complained of a lack of access to evidence and told this masthead last year he was eager to see Australian Federal Police files on his client, whose role in the Indonesian bombings he maintains was inflated and who he believes has no chance of a fair trial.
It emerged this month that the prosecution of bin Amin would be broken off from the joint case against the trio, raising speculation he could enter into a plea deal and even testify against the other two.
But Ahmad El Muhammady, assistant professor at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation in Kuala Lumpur, said he expected the Malaysians would be repatriated in an agreement with the US.
He said they were low level players without a full understanding of the seriousness of their activities and that they could be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society in Malaysia, as the South-East Asian nation has sought to do with Malaysians who fought with Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and their family members.
Indonesia, in contrast, has shown no desire to bring Hambali back, concerned he could still be an inspiration to extremists.
“What is not clear is the fate of Hambali, what’s going to happen to him,” said Muhammady, who is a de-radicalisation expert. “The worst case scenario, if Gitmo [Guantanamo Bay] is going to be closed, is the government of Indonesia is going to be forced to repatriate him.
“So the Indonesian government has to plan right now what it is going to do with him because he is a citizen of Indonesia.”
Greg Barton, professor of global Islamic politics at Deakin University, said the Malaysians were allegedly significant accomplices. But even if they had been tried, found guilty and sentenced they would probably have already been released by now and, with proper checks and balances, pose very little risk, he said.
Hambali’s knowledge of the brutality of interrogators and his high profile make him a different proposition. “Everything we know about Hambali suggests there was a lot of agency on his part, although it’s not been proven in court,” Barton said.
“He is a famous and inspirational figure, so there are multiple reasons to be anxious about him coming back to Indonesia. He would still be seen as an iconic and influential figure even without him doing anything.
“Also, he surely knows a lot about the way he is processed … things the US wouldn’t like him to say.”
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