Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Indonesia should bring back Hambali
Courtesy Jakarta Post
Diaz Hendropriyono , WASHINGTON D.C. | Thu, 03/12/2009 10:13 AM | Opinion
Fulfilling his campaign promise, and having pledged to fight terrorism in a manner consistent with American values, US President Barack Obama signed an executive order in January requiring the Pentagon to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility within the year.
The notorious prison, known for the practice of inhumane interrogation techniques, has spurred condemnation toward the United States. Constructed in April 2002 on Cuban land leased to the United States following the Spanish-American War in the early 1900s, the site currently houses 245 detainees, after some 500 others were repatriated or sent to a third country during the Bush administration.
Many of these remaining individuals linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban have been held for years without charge, trial, or access to legal assistance.
Several key terror suspects imprisoned at the camp include the following, among others: al-Qaeda’s Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged 9/11 attacks lynchpin, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who was supposed to be the “20th hijacker”, Abu Zubaydah, who ran al-Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan, and Hambali, who headed the regional group of the once most dangerous terror group in Southeast Asia, Jemaah Islamiyah.
In closing Gitmo, the Obama administration is now seeking help from foreign countries to resettle these prisoners. Particularly, it is concerned about the 60 and 120 international prisoners who have been cleared for release, and deemed low-threat, but risk prosecution, or worse, if repatriated to their country of origin.
Fortunately, several European countries are willing to help. For example, France is ready to receive three Algerian captives as political refugees.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says that Germany could bring the 17 Chinese Uighur Muslims detained at the camp to Munich, fearing that these separatists from the Xinjiang province would be tortured, or even killed, if returned to China.
Wanting to improve the chilly relations with the United States, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos has stated that his country is ready to take a number of inmates as long as legal conditions are acceptable.
While Portugal, Lithuania, Italy, Ireland and Finland have also stated their interest to host these individuals, other European Union nations such as Austria, the Netherlands, Poland, Denmark and Sweden, as well as Australia are against accepting these detainees.
In Canada, opposition leaders have written a formal letter to President Obama requesting a return of its citizen Omar Khadr, the only Westerner left in the camp.
Meanwhile, Britain has recently accepted the return of its resident, Binyam Mohamed, the first prisoner transferred by the Obama administration.
Indonesia should take advantage of the Gitmo closure to extradite the Indonesian-born Hambali, who was moved from one overseas secret prison to another before finally being placed at the Bay three years ago.
Born Encep Nurjaman a.k.a. Riduan Isamuddin, he went to perform jihad in Afghanistan the first time in the mid-1980s. He later served as the main liaison between al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah.
To illustrate, Hambali met Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – who allegedly funneled US$50,000 to Hambali after the first Bali bombing – at least twice in the late 1990s and early 2000s in Karachi to formalize training assistance between the two terror groups.
Furthermore, he helped al-Qaeda find an operative to cultivate anthrax at its Kandahar laboratory.
Hambali, who met Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in early 2001, also hosted several al-Qaeda figures during their trip to Malaysia, two of them were later to be 9/11 hijackers.
Moreover, he reportedly served as the only non-Arab in al-Qaeda’s advisory council.
Although Hambali was not being discussed during the recent meeting between Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the former is open to the possibility of sending Indonesian officials to meet Hambali at Gitmo.
Indeed, Indonesian Police chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri stated in January that he would discuss Hambali’s extradition with other agencies, especially the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), and send a formal request to the United States to interrogate this “high-value”
However, repatriating the man allegedly involved in the 2002 Bali bombings, the J.W. Marriott attack and the Christmas Eve bombings to Indonesia may be easier said than done.
For example, there may be a problem of returning him as he used a Spanish passport when captured in the CIA-led operation in Thailand six years ago.
His return may also depend on how much access to Hambali the United States would give Indonesia and whether the Obama administration sees Hambali in the same light as the previous administration.
In addition, the vagaries of the Indonesian judicial system as well as the absence of the Internal Security Act in Indonesia, unlike that in neighboring Malaysia and Singapore, would perhaps make the United States reluctant to hand over Hambali.
There is also the unwanted possibility that Hambali would be hailed as a hero by some once he returns, and could gain celebrity status like the former Jemaah Islamiyah emir, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir.
Finally, if he is later proven innocent and freed at home, there is always a chance that he might return to terrorism.
In fact, around 62 former Guantanamo inmates who were returned to their country of origin under the Bush administration have returned to terrorism.
These include Said Ali al-Shihri and Mohammad al-Awfi, who left their home country Saudi Arabia to rejoin al-Qaeda in neighboring Yemen, and Abdallah Saleh al-Ajmi, who returned to terrorism, after four years in Gitmo, by blowing himself up near Mosul, killing 13 Iraqi soldiers.
Indonesia should be aware of all the above consequences and the difficulties of extraditing Hambali. Yet, efforts still need to be put forth to get Hambali home to stand trial, not only to bring justice to the victims of the bombings, but perhaps also to give evidence against his ex-boss to get him a tougher sentence.
For a start, Indonesia should keep pushing the United States for greater access to the man that the United States is probably unable to try under American law.
The writer is a PhD candidate at the Center for Public Administration and Policy, Virginia Tech University